Daily Archives: April 9, 2017

April 8-9, 2017 Truth2Freedom Briefing Report (US•World•Christian)

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Top Weekly Stories from ChristianNews.net for 04/08/2017

Elderly Ohio Pastor Found Murdered in His Home   Apr 02, 2017 06:02 am

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Members of Southard Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio are grieving after learning that their pastor had been found dead in his home on Tuesday. “It was definitely a homicide,” Columbus Police Detective David Sicilian told the Columbus Dispatch. “He was killed at the hands of someone else.” Joseph McDowell, 81, was found after…

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US Ends Funding for UN Population Fund Over Complicity in Chinese Forced Abortions   Apr 05, 2017 10:15 am

Feng Jianmei looks at her baby girl after Chinese officials forcibly aborted the child. WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has ended government funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) over concerns about its complicity in China’s one-child/two-child policy—an accusation that the organization denies. According to reports, U.S. Senate…

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‘Junk Science’? Biblical Creation Group Included on List of Disreputable Websites   Apr 03, 2017 09:24 am

A prominent Creation science group is pushing back after their website was included on a widely-shared list of allegedly untrustworthy sources and described as “junk science.” After “fake news” became a subject of national discussion during the 2016 presidential election, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College,…

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Target Stock Continues to Tumble Year After Company Went Public With Restroom Policy   Apr 07, 2017 05:19 pm

Photo Credit: Mike Kalasnik The national retail chain Target continues to watch its stock prices tumble a year after the company went public with its restroom and changing room policy, which allows customers to use the facility that corresponds with their “gender identity.” As of press time, the stock price is $53.24 a share, compared to $81.57 a share a…

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California AG Who Charged Man Behind Undercover Videos Received Campaign Donations From Planned Parenthood   Apr 01, 2017 12:10 pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The California attorney general who charged the pro-life investigator behind the 2014-2015 undercover Planned Parenthood videos with 15 felonies this week had previously been praised by the abortion and contraception giant and received campaign donations from the organization for many of his House re-election bids. Democratic Congressman…

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Princeton Ethics Professor Defends Woman Convicted of Raping Man With Cerebral Palsy   Apr 07, 2017 01:30 pm

PRINCETON, N.J. — An ethics professor at Princeton University has penned a controversial op-ed in defense of a Rutgers professor who was convicted of sexually assaulting a man with severe cerebral palsy, asserting that the two were in love and the man might have actually consented. The New York Times published Peter Singer’s article on April 3, which centered on…

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South Carolina Lawmakers Considering Bill Declaring Unborn as Protected Persons   Apr 04, 2017 06:47 pm

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Lawmakers in South Carolina are currently considering a bill that would declare that the unborn have protection as persons. Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant recently introduced S. 217, also known as the Personhood Act of South Carolina. It simply recognizes that both the federal and state Constitutions acknowledge God as being the Creator of life and the…

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‘Please Help Me’: American Pastor Imprisoned in Turkey Pleads for Trump’s Intervention   Apr 03, 2017 12:21 pm

An American pastor who has been imprisoned in Turkey since last October is pleading for President Trump and his administration to work more fervently for his release. “I plead with my government—with the Trump administration—to fight for me. I ask the State Department to impose sanctions. I appeal to President Trump: Please help me. Let the Turkish government…

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Indiana Senate Passes Bill Protecting Religious Expression in Public Schools   Apr 03, 2017 09:08 am

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — The Indiana Senate has passed a bill meant to protect religious expression in public schools. H.B. 1024 passed 44-5 on Thursday despite opposition from groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). “House Bill 1024 only puts prayer back into schools. It does not mandate or force students to participate in it,” said sponsor Rep….

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Appeals Court Rules ‘Sexual Orientation’ Applies as Sex Discrimination Under Civil Rights Act   Apr 06, 2017 03:11 pm

Photo Credit: George Hodan CHICAGO — A federal appeals court has ruled that “sexual orientation” can fall under the interpretation of sex discrimination in the federal Civil Rights Act, a decision that the dissenting judges found to be a stretch. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals concluded 8-3 on Tuesday that while Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of…

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Top News – 4/8/2017

Is an increasingly powerful Iran trying to make northern Iraq part of its ‘Shi’a crescent’?
The entrance to a refugee camp in Hamam al-Alil in northern Iraq is…festooned with checkpoints manned by members of the Popular Mobilization Units, Shi’a militias that are often called Hashd al-Shaabi. Most of the men checking cars are young, some of them sport ski masks emblazoned with white skulls… Flags for their various Shi’a units flap in the wind alongside other flags that announce devotion to the imam Hussein, a central figure in Shi’a Islam.

Haley tells UNSC the US is ‘prepared to do more’ in Syria
The days of letting Bashar Assad use chemical weapons in Syria without any consequences are over, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Friday morning, a few hours after the US military struck a Syrian airbase in response to a chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week. “The United States took a very measured step last night,” she added. “We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary.”.

Lebanon’s Hezbollah calls US strike on Syria ‘idiotic step’
Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah said on Friday a US cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase was an “idiotic step” which would lead to “great and dangerous tensions” in the Middle East. Hezbollah, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad in the six-year-old conflict, said in a statement the strike would not demoralize the Syrian army or negatively affect its allies.

‘Muslims—Clear the Temple Mount’
A video that will be published…by the Temple Mount Movement…is asking Muslims to evacuate the compound this coming Monday to allow the performance of the Passover sacrifice. “On Monday, April 10, we, the Jewish people, are commanded to perform a special sacrifice on the Temple Mount…please, evacuate the Temple Mount compound on this day to allow the Jewish people to perform the Passover sacrifice in its rightful time and place,” said Rafael Morris in Arabic.

In big win for Trump, Senate approves his conservative court pick
The Republican-led Senate on Friday gave Donald Trump the biggest triumph of his young presidency, confirming his Supreme Court nominee over stout Democratic opposition and restoring a conservative majority on the highest U.S. judicial body. The Senate…voted 54-45 to approve Republican Trump’s pick, Colorado-based federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, to the lifetime job. Three Democrats joined the Republicans in voting for Gorsuch.

The personal info of 100k taxpayers may be compromised says IRS chief
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen testified before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday, and revealed that somewhere around 100,000 taxpayers may have had their personal information stolen due to an online security breach at the IRS. According to Koskinen, identity thieves took advantage of a bug in one of its web-based data tools that allowed it to file false tax returns that could have potentially cost the federal government millions had it not been caught.

Stockholm Truck Attack Kills 4; Terrorism Is Suspected
A man drove a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people in a popular shopping district in Stockholm on Friday afternoon and then rammed it into a department store, killing four people and injuring 15 others in an attack that unleashed bloodshed and panic on the streets of another European capital.

Trump’s North Korea Options: Place Nukes In South Korea Or Kill Kim Jong-Un
The National Security Council has presented the suddenly ragingly bellicose President Trump with several options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program: put American nukes in South Korea or kill dictator Kim Jong-un.

Google to display fact-checking labels to show if news is true or false
Google is to start displaying fact-checking labels in its search results to highlight news and information that has been vetted and show whether it is considered to be true or false, as part of its efforts to help combat the spread of misinformation and fake news.

Russian Warship Steaming Toward U.S Destroyers Off Syria Coast
The Russian frigate, Admiral Grigorovich RFS-494, crossed through the Bosphorus Strait “a few hours ago” from the Black Sea, according to a U.S. defense official. he Russian warship is now in the eastern Mediterranean steaming in the direction of the U.S. warships.

ISIS used US missile strike to launch new offensive near Palmyra
Taking advantage of the US missile strike on a Syrian airbase, Islamic State forces launched a major offensive to gain control of strategic oil areas near Palmyra, but failed, a local governor told RT.

Syrian Strike Has Trump On The Side Of His Political Foes
The Trump administration conducted airstrikes in Syria Thursday in response to a recent chemical attack which left dozens of civilians dead. This has President Trump on the side of political rivals, as supporters urged him not to engage with the Assad regime.

Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi Trump’s Missile Strike On Syria
Senate and House minority leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have moved away from their Democratic colleagues by endorsing President Donald Trump’s missile strike on Syria.

Chemical Weapons 2017: What Just Happened In Syria?
Yet again, on cue, the Western corporate press is on fire with stories of “Assad’s brutality,” and “chemical weapons” attacks against civilians. Obviously, the United States, NATO, and their media mouthpieces are united in condemnation of the Assad government and the Syrian military despite there being no evidence that it committed the attacks. Indeed, the Western powers may blame Assad all they want but all the available credible evidence suggests that the deployment of chemical weapons this time around, like all the others before it, was the work of terrorists and their supporters.


WEEKEND SNAPSHOT

APR. 8, 2017
TOP STORIES THIS WEEK
TOP OPINION
Charles Krauthammer: Karma, Precedent and the Nuclear Option
David Harsanyi: These Are the Questions Susan Rice Needs to Answer
Scott Powell: It’s the Democrats Who Collude With the Russians
More Opinion →
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

“What does the Left’s newfound enthusiasm for the Bible tell us? It tells us that the Left doesn’t actually believe in the Bible — the Left believes in government. Every time the Left cites the Bible, it does so as an excuse to let government take from some and redistribute to others, or compel work from some on behalf of others.” —Ben Shapiro


Ex-Atheist Lee Strobel on ‘The Case for Christ’ Film: Nonbelievers Will See Real Evidence for God, Jesus

Author Lee Strobel, a former atheist and journalist who attempted to prove that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, said that nonbelievers who see the upcoming “The Case for Christ” film will witness real evidence for God.

View Article


GOP Calls on Trump to Honor Promise to Defend Religious Liberty

In a piece over at Townhall, Todd Starnes says he has “exclusively obtained a letter signed by more than 52 House Republicans urging the president to sign an executive order on religious liberty.”

In February President Trump made a promise to people of faith across the fruited plain.

“My administration will do everything in its power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land,” the president said at the National Prayer Breakfast.

When he campaigned for the White House he stated that the “first priority of my administration will be to preserve and protect our religiously liberty.”

“The First Amendment guarantees our right to practice our faith as we see fit…all the time, always, wherever,” he went on to say.

View article →


Target Stock Continues to Tumble Year After Company Went Public With Restroom Policy

Christian News reports:

The national retail chain Target continues to watch its stock prices tumble a year after the company went public with its restroom and changing room policy, which allows customers to use the facility that corresponds with their “gender identity.”

As of press time, the stock price is $53.24 a share, compared to $81.57 a share a year ago on this day. While the company saw an uptick in November and December, by mid-January, stock prices began falling again. Just a month ago, the price was $63.57 and has now sunk another $10. View Target’s stock chart here.

View article →


This ‘n’ That

  • Can we trust the New Testament canon?
  • According to Luther, prayers should be often, short, and strong.
  • Parents, have you ever been faced with a child questioning whether their lost pet has gone to heaven? I thought this article addressed the question well.
  • Challies offers us a helpful quiz on the atonement.
  • “Rich store of every good kind abounds in [Christ].”
  • Good grief. This is lame.
  • Here’s your weekly dose of adorable.
  • This looks like it will be a nice Bible once its released.
  • What does it mean to teach by allegorizing the Scriptures, and is that the right way to teach them?
  • Noah was a preacher of the faith:

After Success In Syria, President Trump Sets His Sights On Neutralizing Threat Posed By North Korea

The U.S. bombardment of a Syrian airbase just outside of Homs Friday was likely seen by North Korea as a clear warning that President Trump will use his military if United States interests are at risk.

EDITOR’S NOTE: After 8 years of taking as little action as possible and letting nearly nation on Earth walk all over us, it’s quite startling to see America be America once again. This is the America I remember. Strong, unafraid, and willing to take the steps necessary to combat evil in the world. And at some point, sooner rather than later, Russia and Iran are going to try Trump on for size and really see how much resolve he has. That’s when things will really get interesting. 

The immediate focus after the strikes was on Russia’s Vladimir Putin’s reaction. Russia was not happy with the U.S., it spoke in defense of Syria and moved warships. But now the attention is on the next move by another world leader: Kim Jong-Un.

Gordon Chang, a Daily Beast columnist and author of “Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes On The World,” said in an emailed statement to Fox News Friday that the U.S. strike on the Syrian airfield “tells North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that he must now heed American military power, something that he probably dismissed before.”

“Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, disappeared from public view for about six weeks in 2003 at the time of the Iraq war. Kim Jong-Un loves the public spotlight, and it will be telling if he similarly goes into hiding,” the author said.

President Trump is pleased with the Syria strike outcome:

The airstrikes are “a warning to China’s People’s Liberation Army, which had grown dismissive of the U.S. Navy and Air Force.  Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader visiting Mar-a-Lago, almost certainly interpreted the strike as a sign of disrespect to him,” Chang said.

Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane told Fox News on Wednesday that the U.S. is “rapidly and dangerously heading towards the reality that the military option is the only one left when it comes to getting North Korea to denuclearize and not weaponized [intercontinental ballistic missiles].”

Trump made it a point to address the media about the Syria strike at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida just moments after dining with his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping.

The strike was a culmination of a rapid, three-day transformation for Trump, who has long opposed deeper U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war. Advisers said he was outraged by heartbreaking images of young children who were among the dozens killed in the chemical attack and ordered his national security team to swiftly prepare military options. The Los Angeles Times reported up to 15 dead in the strikes. A Syrian official said six were killed at the base and nine others in surrounding areas. The death toll could not be independently confirmed.

“This is Trump saying, ‘No, I am a man of my words,’” Reva Goujon, the vice president of Stratfor, told CNBC. “’When I make a threat, I will follow through.’ That’s certainly something the Chinese and North Koreans will be thinking about.”

Trump has said that if China doesn’t exert more pressure on North Korea, the U.S. will act alone. The missile strikes on Syria bring more weight to that statement. source


Top Headlines – 4/8/2017

U.S. Launches Missiles at Syrian Base Over Chemical Weapons Attack

Syria missile strikes: US launches first direct military action against Assad

Syria: base hit in US airstrike was home to jets allegedly used in chemical attacks

With 59 cruise missiles, US sends message to the world: We’re back

Intel, not just heart-wrenching pictures, convinced US to act on Syria

Haley forces Bolivia to defend Assad ‘atrocities’ in ‘public view’ at UN session

Nikki Haley: US prepared to do more in Syria, but hopes it won’t be necessary

Some Trump supporters turn on president over US strike on Syria

Lawmakers slam Trump for bypassing Congress on Syria strike

Sen. Rand Paul: Syria, Trump and another unconstitutional rush to war

Gregg Jarrett: President Trump’s military strike against Syria is perfectly legal

Russia says US strike violates international law

Susan Rice, Obama colleagues take heat for past claims on Syria chemical weapons purge

Hillary Clinton: Trump can’t ‘speak of protecting Syrian babies’ while pushing a ban of refugees

Syria nerve agent attack: why it made sense to Assad

ISIS sympathizers question motives behind Syria air strike

Syria official says US missile strikes were ‘at terrorists’ request’

US strike on Syria widely hailed as ‘appropriate,’ but angers Russia

Russian warship steams toward US destroyers that launched Syria strikes

Russia calls for emergency UN meeting after US strikes on Syria

US probes whether Russia took part in Syria chemical attack

Tensions rise as Russia reinforces Syrian air defences and warns of ‘considerable damage’ to ties with US after missile strike

Russia suspends deal with US to prevent mid-air incidents over Syria

Russia-US communication channel to remain open following Syria strikes

Russia, Iran condemn US strike in Syria as Britain, Turkey give support

Lebanon’s Hezbollah says US strike in Syria a ‘foolish’ move that will lead to serious regional tensions

Egypt calls on US and Russia to contain the conflict in Syria

Trump’s Sudden Strike On Syria Sends A Chilling Message To Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong Un congratulated Syria’s Assad before U.S. strike

Trump’s Options for North Korea Include Placing Nukes in South Korea

Amidror: US attack in Syria shows Iran that military option is indeed ‘on the table’

Pence tells Netanyahu: US appreciates Israel’s support for Syria strike

Putin slams Netanyahu over ‘unfounded accusations’ on Syria

Israel ‘studying’ Russian statement on Jerusalem recognition

Israel warns Hamas: Fuel supply will halt if bills go unpaid

Heavy security measures to be taken in Jerusalem for Passover, Easter

Stockholm attack: Suspect arrested after four killed in truck attack, Sweden police say

Swedish leader: ‘Nation in a state of shock’

Sweden torn over how to handle incoming terrorists

Police in Norway to carry weapons after Stockholm attack

Wave of attacks across southern Thailand after new constitution signed

Nunes steps aside in Russian meddling probe, says Rice ‘unmasking’ revelation was worth it

Top White House adviser Gary Cohn offers support for move that could break up big banks

After fierce battle, Gorsuch confirmed to US Supreme Court

‘Pinkwashing’ populism: Gay voters embrace French far-right

Target CEO admits restroom policy announcement was huge mistake

America’s Retailers Are Closing Stores Faster Than Ever

Google to display fact-checking labels to show if news is true or false

Google discovers ‘Israeli’ spy app designed to hack smartphones

Israel braces for Anonymous attack on computer grid

FCC Chief Ajit Pai Develops Plans to Roll Back Net Neutrality Rules

Workplace Surveillance Is The New Office ‘Perk’

Robots Take Over Tedious Chore: Mowing Lawns

High-speed Hyperloop track ready for first trial run

Next Job for US Air Force: Space Cop?

5.1 magnitude earthquake hits North of Severnaya Zemlya

Sheveluch volcano on Kamchatka, Russia erupts to 17,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 16,000ft

Sinabung volcano in Indonesia erupts to 13,000ft

Chirinkotan volcano in the Kuril Islands erupts to 12,000ft

California governor declares end to drought emergency

Experts warn of heightened lyme disease threat this spring, summer

The big one is coming, and it’s going to be a flu pandemic

Shock over Vice President Pence’s marriage shows Washington, media out of touch

LGBT crowds, Christian festival collide at beach on Memorial Day

MTV dumps gender-specific categories for Movie & TV Awards

Uruguay will be the first in the world to legally sell the drug over the counter for recreational use

Mom: 11-year-old killed himself following twisted social media prank


Neil Gorsuch Confirmed to US Supreme Court After Senate Uses ‘Nuclear Option’

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:23 PM PDT

The Senate confirmed judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court Friday in a mostly party-line 54-45 vote that reflected weeks of bruising political fighting which…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Powerful Passover Lessons From Jesus’ Last Sermon on Earth

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:15 PM PDT

(By Ron Allen) As Jesus hung on the cross, struggling painfully for each breath, He uttered seven short, powerful statements showing who He was and…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Apocalyptic Hail Storm Strikes China

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:06 PM PDT

A deadly hailstorm and heavy rain battered the city of Guiyang, causing scenes of chaos across the city on Wednesday night. The dramatic hailstorm brought…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Islamic Extremists Turning to Christianity After Visions of Jesus

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 06:02 PM PDT

Muslim conversion journeys to Christianity can involve a dream or a vision of Jesus as part of the testimony of faith, as was true in…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

FCC Chair Outlines Plan to Undo Obama-Era net Neutrality Regulations

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:53 PM PDT

According to multiple reports, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai outlined his plans to undo the Obama-era regulations during a meeting this week with a group of…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Tensions Rise With Iran After U.S. Strike in Syria

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:47 PM PDT

The U.S. airstrikes on Syria stoked new tensions with Iran and generated calls in Tehran for increased military support for President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Iranian…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: United States May Be On Brink Of War With Russia Over Syria Conflict

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:43 PM PDT

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump were last night urged to hold emergency talks as growing tensions in the Middle East ­threatened to explode into war….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

WAR DRUMS: Trump’s Options for North Korea Include Placing Nukes in South Korea

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 05:39 PM PDT

The National Security Council has presented President Trump with options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program — including putting American nukes in South Korea…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

PROPHETIC UPDATE: 5777, Passover and the 100 Year War Cycle

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 01:01 PM PDT

(By Ricky Scaparo) In this segment, we will discuss recent events regarding the recent military strikes against Syria by the United States and reveal to…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

FLASHBACK: Absolutely Shocking Syria War Bible Code

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 12:55 PM PDT

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN IN 2013 (By Michael Snyder) Did you know that there is a Bible code matrix that contains the words “Armageddon”,…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

DEVELOPING: Russia May Have Directly Participated in Syrian Chemical Weapons Attack

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 12:45 PM PDT

A stunning update on Friday afternoon from the Associated Press said the Pentagon is investigating possible Russian participation in the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons attack….

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Google Rolling Out fact-checking labels to prove if news is “true or false”

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 12:42 PM PDT

Google is to start displaying fact-checking labels in its search results to highlight news and information that has been vetted and show whether it is…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russian Deputy US Envoy Claims US afraid of real investigation into Syria chemical attack

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 12:36 PM PDT

The US missile strike in Syria “only facilitated the strengthening of terrorism,” Russia’s representative at the UN Security Council has said, adding that it shows…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Russian warship steams toward US destroyers that launched Syria strikes

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 09:36 AM PDT

A Russian warship entered the eastern Mediterranean Friday and was heading toward the area where two U.S. Navy destroyers launched missile strikes into Syria, Fox…

Read more at End Time Headlines.

Jupiter Will Make Its Closest Approach to Earth for This Year

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 08:13 AM PDT

Look to the sky around midnight tonight and you might just be able to see a big, red spot. That’s because Jupiter, with its famous…

Read more at End Time Headlines.


Top News – 4/9/2017

Suicide bombing feared in second Egyptian church blast on Palm Sunday
At least 36 people were killed and more than 100 injured in bomb attacks on two Coptic churches on Palm Sunday, in the latest assault on a religious minority increasingly targeted by Islamist militants. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks, which come a week before Coptic Easter and in the same month that Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Egypt.

IDF to impose week-long closure of West Bank, Gaza ahead of Passover holiday
A week-long closure of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will begin Monday ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover, the army has announced. All crossings to the West Bank and Gaza will be closed to Palestinians beginning Monday at midnight until Monday April 17, “with the exception of humanitarian, medical and exceptional cases” made with the approval of the IDF’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the IDF said.

Swedish police say truck attack suspect showed ISIS sympathies
Swedish police said on Sunday that the suspect in the Stockholm truck attack was known to have expressed sympathies with extremist organizations, including Islamic state. Police also said that the suspect had sought and been denied permanent residency in the Nordic country and was wanted for deportation…The attack occurred in central Stockholm when a hijacked beer delivery truck plowed into a crow, killing four people and wounding 15 on Friday.

North Korea missiles: US warships deployed to Korean peninsula
The US military has ordered a navy strike group to move towards the Korean peninsula, amid growing concerns about North Korea’s missile programme. The Carl Vinson Strike Group comprises an aircraft carrier and other warships. US Pacific Command described the deployment – now heading towards the western Pacific – as a prudent measure to maintain readiness in the region.

Trump’s Syria strike celebrated by ‘terrorists’, Iran says
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has said “terrorists are celebrating” US strikes on a Syrian airbase. His comments echo the response from Russia, which like Iran is allied to Syria, and from Syria itself. At least six people are reported to have been killed in the missile strikes in the early hours of Friday.

Second Opinion From Doctor Nets Different Diagnosis 88% Of Time
When it comes to treating a serious illness, two brains are better than one. A new study finds that nearly 9 in 10 people who go for a second opinion after seeing a doctor are likely to leave with a refined or new diagnosis from what they were first told…Considering how health insurance companies often limit the ability of patients to visit multiple specialists, this figure could be seen as troubling.

Fierce clashes rock Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon
Security forces have clashed with Islamic extremists for the third consecutive day in a Palestinian camp in Lebanon. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said Sunday that at least two people have been killed since the clashes began…On Saturday, local Palestinian commander Subhi Abu Arab vowed to crush the followers of radical preacher Bilal Badr.

Syrian President Assad’s allies say U.S. attack crosses ‘red lines’
A joint command center made up of the forces of Russian, Iran and allied militia alliance supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad said the U.S. strike on a Syrian air base crossed “red lines” and it would now respond to any new aggression and increase their level of support to their ally.

Hacker Group Releases Password To NSA’s “Top Secret Arsenal” In Protest Of Trump Betrayal
“TheShadowBrokers wishes we could be doing more, but revolutions/civil wars taking money, time, and people. Be considering this our form of protest. The password for the EQGRP-Auction-Files is CrDj”(;Va.*NdlnzB9M?@K2)#>deB7mN”

Venezuela Protests As Maduro Blocks ‘Opposition’ For 15 Years
Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro are calling on demonstrators to flood the streets of Caracas on Saturday as part of a weeklong protest movement that shows little sign of losing steam, after Venezuela’s embattled socialist government stepped up its campaign against the opposition by banning Henrique Capriles from holding public office… for 15 years.

Warplanes strike Syrian town hit by chemical attack
Warplanes on Saturday struck the Syrian town where a chemical attack had killed scores of people earlier this week, as Turkey warned that a retaliatory U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base would only be “cosmetic” if greater efforts are not made to remove President Bashar Assad from power.

Gary Cohn, the not-so-secret Democrat in Trump’s White House, is gaining influence — and critics
After weeks of infighting in the Trump White House, one adviser whose stock is clearly rising is the relatively little-known director of the National Economic Council, Gary Cohn — a registered Democrat who is widely regarded as one of the most liberal voices in the White House. A Trump ally told Yahoo News that Cohn has even earned a nickname among some administration officials and Capitol Hill Republicans: Globalist Gary.

Trump Tells Congress: “US Will Take Additional Action” To Further National Interest In Syria
“I acted in the vital national security and foreign policy interests of the United States, pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. The United States will take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests.”

IS in Afghanistan: US special forces solider is killed
An American special forces soldier has been killed while carrying out operations against the group known as Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan, the US military has said. It says the soldier was killed while fighting IS in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.

2 inmates charged with killing 4 in South Carolina prison
Two convicts each serving a life sentence for killing a mother and her child have been charged with murder in the strangulation deaths of four inmates inside a South Carolina prison.


ISIS Slaughters 43 Coptic Catholics In Egypt As Palm Sunday Services Were Going On

This is the moment an ISIS suicide bomber detonated outside an Egyptian church after being turned away by three hero policemen in the second of two attacks that killed 43 Catholics and wounded 100.

CCTV shows the Muslim terrorist, dressed in a blue pullover, approaching the gate at St Mark’s in Alexandria but being told to go through the metal detector first by the officers. He then passes a female police officer chatting to another woman, and enters a metal detector before an explosion engulfs the area.

The atrocity, which followed another attack in Tanta, was thought to have been aimed at Pope Tawadros II, leader of the ancient Coptic church, who was worshipping in St Mark’s at the time but escaped unharmed.

The blasts, claimed by Islamic State, came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world’s most populous country.

ISIS claims responsibility for church bombings in Egypt

In the first attack, a bomb went off inside St. George’s Church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, killing at least 27 people and wounding 78, officials said.

The attack on St. Mark’s Cathedral, in the coastal city of Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt, happened a few hours later and killed at least 16 people and wounding 41, the Interior Ministry said.

ISIS claimed the attacks via its Aamaq news agency, after having recently warned that it would step up violence against Egypt’s Coptic Catholics.

CBC TV showed footage from inside the church in Tanta, where people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers.

‘After the explosion, everything became dark from the smoke,’ said Edmond Edward, attending services with his brother, Emil, who was wounded and leaned on him for support at a nearby hospital.

‘There was a clear lapse in security, which must be tightened from now on to save lives,’ he said. He added that the blast appeared to be centered near the altar and that the priest leading the service, Father Daniel, was wounded.

Susan Mikhail, whose apartment balcony across the street has a clear view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building.

‘Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes,’ she said.

Later, the more seriously wounded were carried out by other survivors and taken to hospitals in private cars, she said. Hundreds of residents gathered in the area, and church members blocked people – including journalists – from entering the church as police cordoned off the area. source


Top Headlines – 4/9/2017

UN Coordinator for the Middle East: ‘no efforts should be spared to bring peace for Gaza’

UN Mideast envoy urges Palestinian unity amid Gaza pay cut protests

Palestinian TV issues Quranic guidelines for wife-beating

Protesting US airstrikes, Syrians chant ‘Death to Israel’

Is an increasingly powerful Iran trying to make northern Iraq part of its ‘Shi’a crescent’?

U.S. Strike in Syria Raises Tensions With Iran

Iran’s Rouhani wants chemical attack in Syria investigated

In Israeli eyes, Trump’s Tomahawks correct the course of history

Syria: US warns Assad over using chemical weapons again

US vows to keep up pressure on Syria after missile strikes

Trump tells Congress Syria strikes were ‘vital’

Obama aides push back against criticism of inaction on Syria

Despite U.S. missile barrage, Syria continues airstrikes against rebels

Continued bombing by Assad shows limits of single U.S. attack

Arab League calls for ‘de-escalation’ in Syria

Iraq’s Shiite cleric Sadr urges Assad to step down

Turkey says US strikes ‘cosmetic’ if Assad stays in power

As warplanes return to scene of sarin attack, Trump defends missile launch

N.Korea calls US strikes on Syria ‘unforgivable’

Expert: Watch to see if Kim Jong-Un goes into hiding after Syria strike

Could Britain have sold sarin chemicals to Assad’s regime?

U.S.-Led Force Reduces Attacks on ISIS in Syria After Airstrike

Russia to blame for Syria deaths – Sir Michael Fallon

MSNBC host’s conspiracy theory: What if Putin planned the Syrian chemical attack to help Trump?

Islamic State brutally killing civilians who try to flee Mosul

Stockholm attack driver ‘deliberately targeted young children’ as he drove hijacked lorry into crowd

Norway police neutralize bomb outside Oslo subway station

Venezuelans pour into Caracas streets in anti-Maduro protest

Arrests of illegal criminals jumps 250% in one week

Texas community fears it will end up ‘on the wrong side’ of border wall

Xi, Trump agree on trade, military talks but appear at odds over North Korea

NSC said to offer Trump options for North Korea including killing Kim Jung Un

US aircraft carrier-led strike group headed toward Korean Peninsula

Laser weapons edge toward use in US military

Hacking blamed for emergency sirens blaring across Dallas early Saturday

Big Asteroid Is Heading Close to Earth

Panic, damage as three strong quakes hit Philippines

5.9 magnitude earthquake hits near Talaga, Philippines

5.5 magnitude earthquake hits near Bagalangit, Philippines

5.4 magnitude earthquake hits West of Macquarie Island

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Rreshen, Albania

5.0 magnitude earthquake hits near Taysan, Philippines

Sabancaya volcano in Peru eurpts to 26,000ft

Reventador volcano in Ecuador erupts to 16,000ft

Iceland on high alert with volcano due to erupt

Typically Harmless Virus May Trigger Celiac Disease

With lethal injection drugs expiring, Arkansas plans unprecedented seven executions in 11 days

Immediate impact: Gorsuch could begin playing pivotal role on Supreme Court starting next week

He lobbied for gay rights and opposed Trump – now Seattle’s mayor is accused of sexually assaulting minors

Lady Gaga, 20,000 lesbians party during Dinah Shore Weekend

Embracing figures at Pompeii ‘could have been gay lovers’, after scan reveals they are both men

1 dead, 2 wounded after shooting at fitness center in South Florida mall


What is The Gospel?


Who Do You Think That I Am?

Selected Scriptures

Code: A335

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. He had spent much time with them and made some bold claims about His identity and authority. Now the time had come for them either to believe or deny His teachings.

Who do you say Jesus is? Your response to Him will determine not only your values and lifestyle, but your eternal destiny as well.

Consider what the Bible says about Him:

JESUS IS GOD

While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn’t decide or didn’t care. But Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). That means He claimed to be nothing less than God in human flesh.

Many people today don’t understand that Jesus claimed to be God. They’re content to think of Him as little more than a great moral teacher. But even His enemies understood His claims to deity. That’s why they tried to stone Him to death (John 5:18; 10:33) and eventually had Him crucified (John 19:7).

C.S. Lewis observed, “You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Mere Christianity [Macmillan, 1952], pp. 40-41).

If the biblical claims of Jesus are true, He is God!

JESUS IS HOLY

God is absolutely and perfectly holy (Isaiah 6:3), therefore He cannot commit or approve of evil (James 1:13).

As God, Jesus embodied every element of God’s character. Colossians 2:9 says, “In Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” He was perfectly holy (Hebrews 4:15). Even His enemies couldn’t prove any accusation against Him (John 8:46)

God requires holiness of us as well. First Peter 1:16 says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

JESUS IS THE SAVIOR

Our failure to obey God—to be holy—places us in danger of eternal punishment (2 Thessalonians 1:9). The truth is, we cannot obey Him because we have neither the desire nor the ability to do so. We are by nature rebellious toward God (Ephesians 2:1-3). The Bible calls our rebellion “sin.” According to Scripture, everyone is guilty of sin: “There is no man who does not sin” (1 Kings 8:46). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And we are incapable of changing our sinful condition. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.”

That doesn’t mean we’re incapable of performing acts of human kindness. We might even be involved in various religious or humanitarian activities. But we’re utterly incapable of understanding, loving, or pleasing God on our own. The Bible says, “There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

God’s holiness and justice demand that all sin be punished by death: “The soul who sins will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). That’s hard for us to understand because we tend to evaluate sin on a relative scale, assuming some sins are less serious than others. However, the Bible teaches that all acts of sin are the result of sinful thinking and evil desires. That’s why simply changing our patterns of behavior can’t solve our sin problem or eliminate its consequences. We need to be changed inwardly so our thinking and desires are holy

Jesus is the only one who can forgive and transform us, thereby delivering us from the power and penalty of sin: “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Even though God’s justice demands death for sin, His love has provided a Savior, who paid the penalty and died for sinners: “Christ … died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Christ’s death satisfied the demands of God’s justice, thereby enabling Him to forgive and save those who place their faith in Him (Romans 3:26). John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” He alone is “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).

JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH

Some people think it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. But without a valid object your faith is useless

If you take poison—thinking it’s medicine—all the faith in the world won’t restore your life. Similarly, if Jesus is the only source of salvation, and you’re trusting in anyone or anything else for your salvation, your faith is useless.

Many people assume there are many paths to God and that each religion represents an aspect of truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). He didn’t claim to be one of many equally legitimate paths to God, or the way to God for His day only. He claimed to be the only way to God—then and forever.

JESUS IS LORD

Contemporary thinking says man is the product of evolution. But the Bible says we were created by a personal God to love, serve, and enjoy endless fellowship with Him

The New Testament reveals it was Jesus Himself who created everything (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16). Therefore He also owns and rules everything (Psalm 103:19). That means He has authority over our lives and we owe Him absolute allegiance, obedience, and worship.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Confessing Jesus as Lord means humbly submitting to His authority (Philippians 2:10-11). Believing that God has raised Him from the dead involves trusting in the historical fact of His resurrection—the pinnacle of Christian faith and the way the Father affirmed the deity and authority of the Son (Romans 1:4; Acts 17:30-31).

True faith is always accompanied by repentance from sin. Repentance is more than simply being sorry for sin. It is agreeing with God that you are sinful, confessing your sins to Him, and making a conscious choice to turn from sin and pursue holiness (Isaiah 55:7). Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15); and “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8:31).

It isn’t enough to believe certain facts about Christ. Even Satan and his demons believe in the true God (James 2:19), but they don’t love and obey Him. Their faith is not genuine. True saving faith always responds in obedience (Ephesians 2:10).

Jesus is the sovereign Lord. When you obey Him you are acknowledging His lordship and submitting to His authority. That doesn’t mean your obedience will always be perfect, but that is your goal. There is no area of your life that you withhold from Him.

JESUS IS THE JUDGE

All who reject Jesus as their Lord and Savior will one day face Him as their Judge: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).

Second Thessalonians 1:7-9 says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”

HOW WILL YOU RESPOND?

Who does the Bible say Jesus is? The living God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the sovereign Lord, and the righteous Judge.

Who do you say Jesus is? That is the inescapable question. He alone can redeem you—free you from the power and penalty of sin. He alone can transform you, restore you to fellowship with God, and give your life eternal purpose. Will you repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?


Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A335
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Rick Warren: Thinking Like A Pagan And A Theology-dissing Jesus

From Berean Research:

Before you get started on Bud Ahlheim’s blog post, head over to our White Paper on Rick Warren, quickly browse our list of concerns, then return to Bud’s piece because you’ll want to know what this man is currently up to.

Because Rick Warren has been dubbed “America’s Pastor” and is held in high esteem by the clueless media as well as pastors who have bought into the purpose-driven model of doing church, it’s important to follow his career path. Since Berean Research makes an effort to closely monitor his comings and goings, we can report without reservation that “America’s Pastor” is not only a wolf in sheep’s clothing; he’s a leader of the pack.  Too harsh, you say?  Again, take a glimpse at our research, and then come back to Bud Ahlheim’s must read report….

 

Remember how Jesus, when He came to earth as the Incarnate Son Of God, actually became a vile, depraved sinner so that He could adequately reach sinners in a relevant way with His Truth? Or that time the thrice-denying Peter answered Jesus’ thrice-offered query, “Do you love me?” in the negative, but only so he could do effective ministry among Jews who didn’t love Jesus either?  Or how about that story of the post-Damascus Road Paul who decided to forsake his apostolic calling and return to living as a self-righteous pagan so that he could reach pagans with the Gospel?

View article →

What Is True Conversion?

The whole purpose of conversion is to bring men and women into a right relationship with God. This is why Christ came, and it is the reason for which He died. It was God who was “in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself ” (2 Cor. 5:19). Conversion is the crying need of the soul. Until one’s life is turned from sin to Christ, nothing else matters.

Jesus said, “Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Jesus is clear that if a person of this world is to be accepted into this other kingdom—the kingdom of heaven—he must be converted. Put very simply, to be converted is absolutely necessary to enter the kingdom of God.

What does the word conversion mean? In the biblical sense, conversion means a turning—a spiritual turning away from sin in repentance and to Christ in faith. It is a dramatic turning away from one path in order to pursue an entirely new one. It involves turning one’s back to the system of the world and its anti-God values. It involves a turning away from dead religion and self-righteousness. It involves a complete pivot, an about-face, in order to enter through the narrow gate that leads to life.

Conversion also involves the idea of changing direction. A true spiritual conversion radically alters the direction of one’s life. It is not a partial change wherein one is able to straddle the fence between two worlds. It is not a superficial turning, a mere rearranging of the outward facade of a person’s life. Conversion is not a gradual change that occurs over a period of time, like sanctification. Instead, a genuine conversion occurs much deeper within the soul of a person. It is a decisive break with old patterns of sin and the world and the embracing of new life in Christ by faith.

This spiritual conversion is so profound that it involves many changes in a person. It involves a change of mind, which is an intellectual change; and a change of view, a new recognition of God, self, sin, and Christ. It involves a change of affections, which is an emotional change, a change of feeling, a sorrow for sin committed against a holy and just God. It involves a change of will, which is a volitional change, an intentional turning away from sin and a turning to God through Christ to seek forgiveness. The entire person—mind, affections, and will—is radically, completely, and fully changed in conversion.

Theologically speaking, regeneration and conversion are two sides of the same coin. Regeneration is God’s sovereign activity by the Holy Spirit in the soul of one who is spiritually dead in sin. Regeneration is the implantation of new life in the soul. Regeneration gives the gifts of repentance and faith. On the other side of the coin, conversion is the response of the one who is regenerated. Esteemed British pastor D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said: “Conversion is the first exercise of the new nature in ceasing from old forms of life and starting a new life. It is the first action of the regenerate soul in moving from something to something.” Regeneration precedes and produces conversion. There is a cause-and-effect relationship between these two. Regeneration is the cause, and conversion is the effect. Put another way, regeneration is the root and conversion is the fruit.

To affirm true conversion implies that there is also false conversion. Put simply, there is such a thing as non-saving faith. Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” has entered the narrow gate (Matt. 7:21). People may know the truth and may have felt grief regarding their sin, but it is a selfish sorrow over what their sin has caused them to suffer, not how it has offended a holy God. The most stark example of a false conversion we have in Scripture is that of Judas Iscariot. In a counterfeit conversion, there is no death to self, no submission to the lordship of Christ, no taking up a cross, no obedience in following Christ, no fruit of repentance–only empty words, shallow feelings, and barren religious activities. On the contrary, with a true conversion sin is abhorred, the world renounced, pride crushed, self surrendered, faith exercised, Christ seen as precious, and the cross embraced as one’s only saving hope.

The whole purpose of conversion is to bring men and women into a right relationship with God. This is why Christ came, and it is the reason for which He died. It was God who was “in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself ” (2 Cor. 5:19). Conversion is the crying need of the soul. Until one’s life is turned from sin to Christ, nothing else matters.

This post was originally published in Tabletalk magazine. This article used with permission.

The post What Is True Conversion? appeared first on The Aquila Report.

‘The Case For Christ’ Movie From Pure Flix Is An Amazing Story Of Atheist’s Journey To Salvation

In 1980, Lee Strobel finds his marriage and professional life turned upside-down when his wife Leslie converts from their shared atheism to Christianity.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2 (KJV)

I can remember someone handing me a copy of the book ‘The Case For Christ‘ some years after I got saved back in 1991, and greatly enjoyed reading about all the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ after His death on the cross. My faith did not require evidence per se, but it was really awesome seeing how much it there truly was. Now a new movie based on the 1998 best-seller has come out, so I took  my daughter to go see it tonight.

The acting was authentic and well-done, cinematography and soundtrack production values quite high, all in all it was a great movie. But what we were not prepared for was the level of emotion delivered as we watch first Lee’s wife Leslie get saved shortly after a near-fatal incident with their daughter, and then Lee’s struggle to reconcile his atheism with his wife’s new-found faith. Lee sets out to “prove her wrong” and expose Christianity in general and the resurrection in particular as a “cruel hoax” perpetrated on “gullible people”.

What follows is a strongly-acted, emotional roller coaster that takes the viewers along for the ride. We can happily recommend that you go see this movie, and take along some unbelievers with you.

Movie review from HotAir.com:

In 1980, Lee Strobel (Mike Vogel) finds his marriage and professional life turned upside-down when his wife Leslie (Erika Christiansen) converts from their shared atheism to Christianity. Convinced that his wife has been brainwashed by a cult — being just a couple of years removed from the Jonestown massacre — Strobel decides to apply his journalistic expertise to debunk the central core of the Christian faith: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Can Strobel find an evidence-based argument to refute Christianity, or will he be forced to face his own biases and assumptions?

Do you know Him?

Given that this is explicitly a conversion story (and that Strobel’s book sold 14 million copies over the last two decades), that outcome isn’t exactly a mystery, but the film isn’t intended to be a mystery anyway. At its core, The Case for Christ is a love story on multiple levels rather than an exposition about evidentiary support for the Resurrection. The love Lee and Leslie have for each other becomes redemptive, but so too the terribly strained relationship that Lee has with his father, and that Lee also has with The Father.

What sets this film apart from some others in this genre is the careful manner in which it depicts various characters and their own relation to faith. Lee’s atheistic friend provides him emotional support and comes across quite sympathetically, rather than someone to boo as might have been the case in less subtle hands. The religion editor who challenges Lee to see the truth is as sympathetic but loses his temper in frustration over Lee’s abrasive behavior. Two sources for his evidentiary trail are at the very least agnostic, but portrayed as sympathetically as the Catholic priest who helps Lee start his investigation. The closest the film comes to a bad guy is Lee himself, as he struggles with his wife’s faith as almost a form of infidelity and lashes out at her new friends.

The production values match those of higher-level independent films. The casting of Vogel and Christiansen is especially successful, as they present a very realistic depiction of a young married couple in serious trouble. Faye Dunaway and Frankie Faison have smaller but notable roles, and the ever-estimable Robert Forster portrays Lee’s estranged father. Eight is Enough’s Grant Goodeve has a cameo, but veteran character actor Mike Pniewski’s turn as the Chicago Tribune’s religion editor might be the most memorable outside of the featured cast. The direction and cinematography are straightforward and not at all overdone, with no “shaky cam” usage to generate a false sense of style. The film does an excellent job of recalling the 1980-81 period without making the mistake of falling back into kitsch, opting instead for a look as realistic and nuanced as the film itself.

It all adds up to a compelling and very human story about love, redemption, faith, reason, and finding peace with all of them. With the emergence of Risen and The Case for Christ, the faith-based segment of the film market has come into its own. source

Source: ‘The Case For Christ’ Movie From Pure Flix Is An Amazing Story Of Atheist’s Journey To Salvation

April 9, 2017: Verse of the day

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knowledge

More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, (3:8–9a)

The forceful phrase more than that is an untranslatable string of five Greek particles (lit. “but indeed therefore at least even”). It strongly emphasizes the contrast between the religious credits that do not impress God and the incalculable benefits of knowing Christ. In verse 7, Paul counted the religious credits in verses 5 and 6 as loss; here he expands that conviction and declares all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. The verb translated “I have counted” in verse 7 is in the perfect tense; the same verb translated here I count is in the present tense. That indicates that all the meritorious works that Paul had counted on to earn God’s favor, and any that he might do in the present or future, are but loss.

Paul abandoned his past religious achievements in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. The participle huperchon (the surpassing value) refers to something of incomparable worth. The word knowing in the Greek text is not a verb, but a form of the noun gnōsis, from the verb ginōskō, which means to know experimentally or experientially by personal involvement. The surpassing knowledge of Christ that Paul describes here is far more than mere intellectual knowledge of the facts about Him.

The New Testament frequently describes Christians as those who know Christ. In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me.” In John 17:3 He defined eternal life as knowing Him: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6), while in Ephesians 1:17 he prayed “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” In his first epistle John declared, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Salvation involves a personal, relational knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To the Greeks, gnōsis could describe secret, cultic, mystical communion with a deity. Those who were initiated into the mystery claimed to have ascended beyond the mundane knowledge possessed by the masses. They imagined that they alone enjoyed some personal experience of their deity. The Greeks often sought such an elevated state through drunken revelry. In the second century, the dangerous heresy of Gnosticism attempted to syncretize the Greek concept of gnōsis and Christian truth. Like their pagan counterparts, the Gnostics claimed a higher, truer knowledge of God than the average Christian experienced. But Paul uses gnōsis here to describe the transcendent communion with Christ that all true believers experience.

There is also an Old Testament context for gnōsis. The verb form was used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) to translate the Hebrew word yada. Yada often denoted an intimate knowledge, even a union or bond of love. It was sometimes used in Scripture as a euphemism for sexual intercourse (e.g., Gen. 4:1, 17, 25; 19:8; 24:16; Num. 31:17–18, 35; Judg. 21:11–12; 1 Sam. 1:19). It also described God’s intimate love bond with Israel: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth” (Amos 3:2 nkjv). Thus, the word can have the connotation both of a transcendent knowledge and an intimate love bond.

Adding personal warmth to the rich theological concept of knowing Christ Jesus, Paul describes Him as my Lord. That threefold description encompasses Christ’s three offices of prophet, priest, and king. Christ views Him as the Messiah, the messenger or prophet of God. Jesus views Him as Savior, emphasizing His role as believers’ great High Priest. Lord views Him as sovereign King over all creation.

Salvation comes only through the deep knowledge of and intimate love bond with Jesus Christ that God gives by grace through faith. Commenting on the believer’s knowledge of Christ, F. B. Meyer wrote,

We may know Him personally intimately face to face. Christ does not live back in the centuries, nor amid the clouds of heaven: He is near us, with us, compassing our path in our lying down, and acquainted with all our ways. But we cannot know Him in this mortal life except through the illumination and teaching of the Holy Spirit.… And we must surely know Christ, not as a stranger who turns in to visit for the night, or as the exalted king of men—there must be the inner knowledge as of those whom He counts His own familiar friends, whom He trusts with His secrets, who eat with Him of His own bread.

To know Christ in the storm of battle; to know Him in the valley of shadow; to know Him when the solar light irradiates our faces, or when they are darkened with disappointment and sorrow; to know the sweetness of His dealing with bruised reeds and smoking flax; to know the tenderness of His sympathy and the strength of His right hand—all this involves many varieties of experience on our part, but each of them like the facets of a diamond will reflect the prismatic beauty of His glory from a new angle. (The Epistle to the Philippians [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1952], 162–63)

For the inestimable privilege of knowing Jesus Christ, Paul gladly suffered the loss of all things by which he might have sought to earn salvation apart from Christ. The apostle went so far as to count them but rubbish so that he might gain (personally appropriate) Christ. All efforts to obtain salvation through human achievement are as much rubbish as the worst vice. Skubalon (rubbish) is a very strong word that could also be rendered “waste,” “dung,” “manure,” or even “excrement.” Paul expresses in the strongest possible language his utter disdain for all the religious credits with which he had sought to impress man and God. In view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ, they are worthless. Paul would have heartily endorsed Isaiah’s declaration that “all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away” (Isa. 64:6).

The phrase in Him expresses the familiar Pauline truth that believers are in Christ, a concept found more than seventy-five times in his epistles. Believers are inextricably intertwined with Christ in an intimate life and love bond. “I have been crucified with Christ,” wrote Paul to the Galatians; “and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

MacArthur New Testament Commentary

3:8 In coming to Christ for salvation, Paul had renounced all things and counted them worthless when compared to the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord. The excellence of the knowledge is a Hebrew way of saying “the excellent knowledge” or “the surpassing worth of knowing.”

Ancestry, nationality, culture, prestige, education, religion, personal attainments—all these the apostle abandoned as grounds for boasting. Indeed, he counted them as dung or rubbish in order that he might gain Christ.

Although the present tense is used in this verse and in the one following, Paul is looking back primarily to the time of his conversion. In order to gain Christ, he had had to turn his back on the things he had always been taught to prize most highly. If he were to have Christ as his gain, he had to say “goodbye” to his mother’s religion, his father’s heritage, and his own personal attainments.

And so he did! He completely severed his ties with Judaism as a hope of salvation. In doing so, he was disinherited by his relatives, disowned by his former friends, and persecuted by his fellow countrymen. He literally suffered the loss of all things when he became a Christian.

Because the present tense is used in verse 8, it sounds as if Paul was still seeking to gain Christ. Actually, he had won Christ when he first acknowledged Him as Lord and Savior. But the present tense indicates that this is still his attitude—he still counts all else as rubbish when compared to the value of knowing the Lord Jesus. The great desire of his heart is: “That Christ may be my gain.” Not gold, or silver, or religious reputation, but Christ.

Believers Bible Commentary

April 9 – Inheriting the Earth

“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).

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Someday God will reverse the curse and return the earth to His people.

God said to Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28). But their sin cost them their sovereignty and brought a curse upon the earth (Gen. 3:17–18).

The Apostle Paul said, “The anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God … in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:19–21). Someday that curse will be reversed, and God’s people will once again inherit the earth.

The Greek word translated “inherit” (Matt. 5:5) means “to receive an allotted portion.” The earth is the allotted portion of believers, who will reign with the Lord when He comes in His Kingdom (Rev. 20:6). That’s an emphatic promise in Matthew 5:5, which literally reads, “Blessed are the gentle, for only they shall inherit the earth.”

Many Jewish people of Christ’s day thought the Kingdom belonged to the strong, proud, and defiant. But Jesus said the earth will belong to the gentle, meek, and humble. Proud, self-righteous people don’t qualify (cf. Luke 1:46–55). Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become [humble and submissive] like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

As a recipient of God’s promises, you should be thrilled knowing that you will inherit the earth and reign with Christ in His earthly Kingdom. Be encouraged to know that even when evil people and godless nations seem to prosper, God is in complete control and will someday establish His righteous Kingdom on earth.

Rejoice in that assurance, and seek to be all He wants you to be until that great day.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God that all of creation will someday be freed from sin’s corrupting influences. ✧ Praise Him for His mighty power, which will bring it all to pass.

For Further Study: Read 1 Corinthians 6:1–8. ✧ What issue did Paul address? ✧ How does the future reign of Christians apply to that issue?[1]


Happy Are the Meek

(5:5)

15

Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. (5:5)

Like the first two beatitudes, this one must have been shocking and perplexing to Jesus’ hearers. He taught principles that were totally foreign to their thinking.

Jesus’ audience knew how to act spiritually proud and spiritually self-sufficient. They were proficient in erecting a pious facade. They actually believed that the Messiah was coming soon and would commend them for their goodness. He would, at last, give the Jewish people their rightful place in the world-position above all other people, because they were the chosen of God.

They eagerly anticipated that the Messiah would deal gently with them and harshly with their oppressors, who for nearly a hundred years had been the Romans. After the Maccabean revolution that freed them from Greece, the Jews had a brief time of independence. But Rome’s rule, though not as cruel and destructive, was much more powerful than that of Greece. Since 63 b.c., when Pompey annexed Palestine to Rome, the region had been ruled primarily by puppet kings of the Herodian family and by Roman governors, or procurators, the best known of which to us was Pilate.

The Jews so despised Roman oppression that sometimes they even refused to admit it existed. One day as He taught on the Mount of Olives,Jesus had one of His strongest exchanges with the Pharisees. When He said “to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,’ ” the Pharisees’ response was strange. “We are Abraham’s offspring,” they said, “and have never yet been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, ‘You shall become free?’ ” (John 8:31–33). The fact was, of course, that Israel’s history was one of repeated conquest and oppression-by Egypt, Assyria, the Medes and Persians, the Greeks, and, at that very time, Rome. Apparently pride would not allow those Pharisees to acknowledge one of the most obvious facts of their nation’s history and of their present situation.

All Jews hoped for deliverance of some sort, by some means. Many were expecting deliverance to come through the Messiah. God had directly promised the godly Simeon “that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ,” that is, the Messiah (Luke 2:26). Simeon’s expectation was fulfilled when he was given the privilege of seeing the true Messiah as an infant. Others, however, such as the Pharisees, expected the Messiah to come with great fanfare and a mighty show of supernatural power. They assumed He would miraculously throw off the yoke of Rome and establish a Jewish state, a revived theocracy and holy commonwealth that would rule the world. Others, such as the materialistic Sadducees, hoped for change through political compromise, for which they were despised by many fellow Jews. The monastic Essenes, isolated both physically and philosophically from the rest of Judaism, lived largely as if Rome and the rest of the world did not exist.

The Zealots, as their name implies, were the most vocal and active proponents of deliverance. Many of them expected the Messiah to come as a powerful, irresistible military leader who would conquer Rome in the same way that Rome had conquered them. They were not, however, waiting passively for their Deliverer, but were determined that, whenever and however He might come, they would do their part to make His job easier. Their numbers, influence, and power continued to grow until Rome brutally attempted to crush Jewish resistance. In a.d. 70 Titus totally destroyed Jerusalem and massacred over a million Jews. Three years later Flavius Silva finally succeeded in his long siege against the stronghold at Masada. When Jewish rebelliousness continued to frustrate Rome, Hadrian swept through Palestine during the years 132–35 and systematically destroyed most of the cities and slaughtered the Jews living there.

In Jesus’ day the aggressive, rebellious Zealots were not many in number, but they had the sympathy and moral support of many of the people, who wanted Rome to be overthrown, however it was done.

Consequently, in whatever way various groups of people expected the Messiah to come, they did not anticipate His coming humbly and meekly. Yet those were the very attitudes that Jesus, the one whom John the Baptist had announced as the Messiah, was both teaching and practicing. The idea of a meek Messiah leading meek people was far from any of their concepts of the messianic kingdom. The Jews understood military power and miracle power. They even understood the power of compromise, unpopular as it was. But they did not understand the power of meekness.

The people as a whole eventually rejected Jesus because He did not fulfill their messianic expectations. He even preached against the means in which they had put their hope. They first rejected, then hated, and finally killed Him because, instead of approving their religion He condemned it, and instead of leading them to independence from Rome He disdained revolutionary acts and offered a way of even greater subservience.

In their minds Jesus could not possibly be the Messiah, and the final evidence was His crucifixion. The Old Testament taught that anyone hanged on a tree was “accursed of God” (Deut. 21:23), yet that is exactly where Jesus’ life ended-ignominiously on a cross, and a Roman cross at that. As He hung dying, some of the Jewish leaders could not resist a last taunt against His claim to be Savior and Messiah: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we shall believe in Him. He trusts in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’ ” (Matt. 27:42–43).

In the early days of apostolic preaching, the death and resurrection of Christ were the greatest hindrances to belief in the gospel. The ideas were foolishness to Gentiles and a stumbling block to Jews (1 Cor. 1:23). The gospel was foolishness to those Gentiles who considered the body to be inherently evil and thought it absurd that the Savior of the world not only would allow Himself to be killed but would come back from the dead in bodily form. To the Jews the gospel was a stumbling block because the idea of the Messiah dying at all, much less on a cross, was unthinkable. How could a Messiah who taught for a few years, accomplished absolutely nothing as far as anyone could see, and then was rejected by the religious teachers and put to death be worth believing in? (cf. Acts 3:17–18).

But rejection of Jesus started long before His crucifixion. When He began the Sermon on the Mount by teaching humility, mourning, and meekness, the people sensed something was wrong. This strange preacher could hardly be the deliverer they were looking for. Great causes are fought by the proud, not the humble. You cannot win victories while mourning, and you certainly could never conquer Rome with meekness. In spite of all the miracles of His ministry, the people never really believed in Him as the Messiah, because He failed to act in military or miracle power against Rome.

The Jews were not looking for the Messiah that God had told them was coming. They disregarded such parts of His Word as Isaiah 40–60, which so clearly and vividly portrays the Messiah as the Suffering Servant as well as the conquering Lord. They could not accept the idea that such descriptions as, “He has no stately form or majesty … He was despised and forsaken of men … He was oppressed and He was afflicted…like a lamb that is led to slaughter … that He was cut off out of the land of the living,” and “His grave was assigned with wicked men” (Isa. 53:2–3, 7–9) could apply to the Messiah, to the coming great deliverer of the Jews.

Jesus’ teaching seemed new and unacceptable to most of His hearers simply because the Old Testament was so greatly neglected and misinterpreted. They did not recognize the humble and self-denying Jesus as the Messiah because they did not recognize God’s predicted Suffering Servant as the Messiah. That was not the kind of Messiah they wanted.

The Meaning of Meekness

Gentle is from praos, which basically means mild or soft. The term sometimes was used to describe a soothing medicine or a soft breeze. It was used of colts and other animals whose naturally wild spirits were broken by a trainer so that they could do useful work. As a human attitude it meant being gentle of spirit, meek, submissive, quiet, tenderhearted. During His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus was hailed as the coming King, though He was “gentle, and mounted on a donkey” (Matt. 21:5). Paul lovingly referred to the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1) as the pattern for his own attitude.

The essential difference between being poor in spirit and being meek, or gentle, may be that poverty in spirit focuses on our sinfulness, whereas meekness focuses on God’s holiness. The basic attitude of humility underlies both virtues. When we look honestly at ourselves, we are made humble by seeing how sinful and unworthy we are; when we look at God, we are made humble by seeing how righteous and worthy He is.

We again can see logical sequence and progression in the Beatitudes. Poverty of spirit (the first) is negative, and results in mourning (the second). Meekness (the third) is positive, and results in seeking righteousness (the fourth). Being poor in spirit causes us to turn away from ourselves in mourning, and meekness causes us to turn toward God in seeking His righteousness.

The blessings of the Beatitudes are for those who are realistic about their sinfulness, who are repentant of their sins, and who are responsive to God in His righteousness. Those who are unblessed, unhappy, and shut out of the kingdom are the proud, the arrogant, the unrepentant-the self-sufficient and self-righteous who see in themselves no unworthiness and feel no need for God’s help and God’s righteousness.

Most of Jesus’ hearers, like fallen men throughout history, were concerned about justifying their own ways, defending their own rights, and serving their own ends. The way of meekness was not their way, and therefore the true kingdom was not their kingdom. The proud Pharisees wanted a miraculous kingdom, the proud Sadducees wanted a materialistic kingdom, the proud Essenes wanted a monastic kingdom, and the proud Zealots wanted a military kingdom. The humble Jesus offered a meek kingdom.

Meekness has always been God’s way for man. It is the way of the Old Testament. In the book of Job we are told that God “sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety” (5:11). Moses, the Jews’ great deliverer and law-giver, “was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). The Jews’ great King David, their supreme military hero, wrote, “He [the Lord] leads the humble in justice, and He teaches the humble His way” (Ps. 25:9).

Meekness is the way of the New Testament. It is taught by Jesus in the Beatitudes as well as elsewhere and is continued to be taught by the apostles. Paul entreated the Ephesians to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:1–2). He told the Colossians to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col. 3:12). He told Titus to remind those under his leadership “to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be uncontentious, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1–2).

Meekness does not connote weakness. The word was used in much extrabiblical literature to refer to the breaking of an animal. Meekness means power put under control. A person without meekness is “like a city that is broken into and without walls” (Prov. 25:28). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Prov. 16:32). An unbroken colt is useless; medicine that is too strong will harm rather than cure; a wind out of control destroys. Emotion out of control also destroys, and has no place in God’s kingdom. Meekness uses its resources appropriately.

Meekness is the opposite of violence and vengeance. The meek person, for example, accepts joyfully the seizing of his property, knowing that he has infinitely better and more permanent possessions awaiting him in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The meek person has died to self, and he therefore does not worry about injury to himself, or about loss, insult, or abuse. The meek person does not defend himself, first of all because that is His Lord’s command and example, and second because he knows that he does not deserve defending. Being poor in spirit and having mourned over his great sinfulness, the gentle person stands humbly before God, knowing he has nothing to commend himself.

Meekness is not cowardice or emotional flabbiness. It is not lack of conviction nor mere human niceness. But its courage, its strength, its conviction, and its pleasantness come from God, not from self. The spirit of meekness is the spirit of Christ, who defended the glory of His Father, but gave Himself in sacrifice for others. Leaving an example for us to follow, He “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Pet. 2:21–23).

Though He was sinless, and therefore never deserved criticism or abuse, Jesus did not resist slander or repay injustice or threaten His tormentors. The only human being who did no wrong, the One who always had a perfect defense, never defended Himself.

When His Father’s house was profaned by moneychangers and sacrifice sellers, “He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the moneychangers, and overturned their tables” (John 2:14–15). Jesus scathingly and repeatedly denounced the hypocritical and wicked religious leaders; He twice cleansed the Temple by force; and He fearlessly uttered divine judgment on those who forsook and corrupted God’s Word.

But Jesus did not once raise a finger or give a single retort in His own defense. Though at any time He could have called legions of angels to His side (Matt. 26:53), He refused to use either natural or supernatural power for His own welfare. Meekness is not weakness, but meekness does not use its power for its own defense or selfish purposes. Meekness is power completely surrendered to God’s control.

The Manifestation of Meekness

The best way to describe meekness is to illustrate it, to see it in action. Scripture abounds with instructive accounts of meekness.

After God had called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldeans to the Promised Land and had made the marvelous unconditional covenant with him, a dispute about grazing lands arose between the servants of Abraham and those of his nephew Lot. All the land of Canaan had been promised to Abraham. He was God’s chosen man and the Father of God’s chosen people. Lot, on the other hand, was essentially a hanger-on, an in-law who was largely dependent on Abraham for his welfare and safety. Besides that, Abraham was Lot’s uncle and his elder. Yet Abraham willingly let Lot take whatever land he wanted, thus giving up his rights and prerogatives for the sake of his nephew, for the sake of harmony between their households, and for the sake of their testimony before “the Canaanite and the Perizzite [who] were dwelling then in the land” (Gen. 13:5–9). Those things were much more important to Abraham than standing up for his own rights. He had both the right and the power to do as he pleased in the matter, but in meekness he gladly waived his rights and laid aside his power.

Joseph was abused by his jealous brothers and eventually sold into slavery. When, by God’s gracious plan, he came to be second only to Pharaoh in Egypt, he was in a position to take severe vengeance on his brothers. When they came to Egypt asking for grain for their starving families, Joseph could easily have refused and, in fact, could have put his brothers into more severe slavery than that into which they had sold him. Yet he had only forgiveness and love for them. When he finally revealed to them who he was, “he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it” (Gen. 45:2). Then he said to them, “Do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life … Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (vv. 5, 8). Later he told them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” ( 50:19–20). In meekness Joseph understood that it was God’s place to judge and his to forgive and help.

Moses killed an Egyptian who was beating some Hebrew slaves; faced up to Pharaoh to demand the release of his people; and was so angry at the orgy that Aaron and the people were having around the golden calf that he smashed the first set of tablets of the Ten Commandments. Yet he was called “very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth” (Num. 12:3). Moses vented his anger against those who harmed and enslaved his people and who rebelled against God, but he did not vent his anger against those who abused him or demand personal rights and privileges.

When God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses felt completely inadequate, and pleaded, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11). After God explained His plan for Moses to confront Pharaoh, Moses again pleaded, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since Thou hast spoken to Thy servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue” (4:10). Moses would defend God before anyone, but he did not defend himself before God.

David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to replace Saul as Israel’s king. But when, in the cave of Engedi, he had the opportunity to take Saul’s life, as Saul often had tried to take his, David refused to do so. He had such great respect for the king’s office, despite that particular king’s wickedness and abuse of him, that “David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. So he said to his men, ‘Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed’ ” (1 Sam. 24:5–6).

Many years later, after David’s rebellious son Absalom had routed his father from Jerusalem, a member of Saul’s family named Shimei cursed David and threw stones at him. When one of David’s soldiers wanted to cut off Shimei’s head, David prevented him, saying, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day” (2 Sam. 16:5–12).

By contrast, King Uzziah, who began to reign at the age of sixteen and who “did right in the sight of the Lord,” and “continued to seek God” (2 Chron. 26:4–5), became self-confident after the Lord gave him great victories over the Philistines, Ammonites, and other enemies. “When he became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (v. 16). Uzziah thought he could do no wrong, and arrogantly performed a rite that he knew was restricted to the priests. He was so concerned with exalting himself and glorying in his greatness, that he disobeyed the God who had made him great and even profaned His Temple. As a consequence “King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the Lord” (v. 21).

Of the many examples of meekness in the New Testament, the greatest other than Jesus Himself was Paul. He was by far the most educated of the apostles and the one, as far as we can tell, that God used most widely and effectively. Yet he refused to put any confidence in himself, “in the flesh” (Phil. 3:3). He knew that he could do all things, but only “through Him who strengthens me” (4:13).

The Result of Meekness

As with the other beatitudes, the general result of meekness is being blessed, being made divinely happy. God gives the meek His own joy and gladness.

More specifically, however, the gentle … shall inherit the earth. After creating man in His own image, God gave man dominion over the whole earth (Gen. 1:28). The subjects of His kingdom are going to come someday into that promised inheritance, largely lost and perverted after the Fall. Theirs will be paradise regained.

One day God will completely reclaim His earthly domain, and those who have become His children through faith in His Son will rule that domain with Him. And the only ones who become His children and the subjects of His divine kingdom are those who are gentle, those who are meek, because they understand their unworthiness and sinfulness and cast themselves on the mercy of God. The emphatic pronoun autos (they) is again used (see vv. 3, 4), indicating that only those who are meek shall inherit the earth.

Most Jews thought that the coming great kingdom of the Messiah would belong to the strong, of whom the Jews would be the strongest. But the Messiah Himself said that it would belong to the meek, and to Jew and Gentile alike.

Klēronomeō (to inherit) refers to the receiving of one’s allotted portion, one’s rightful inheritance. This beatitude is almost a direct quotation of Psalm 37:11-“But the humble will inherit the land.” For many generations faithful Jews had wondered, as God’s people today sometimes wonder, why the wicked and godless seem to prosper and the righteous and godly seem to suffer. Through David, God assured His people, “Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more; and you will look carefully for his place, and he will not be there” (v. 10). The wicked person’s time of judgment was coming, as was the righteous person’s time of blessing.

Our responsibility is to trust the Lord and obey His will. The settling of accounts, whether in judgment or blessing, is in His hands and will be accomplished exactly in the right time and in the right way. In the meanwhile, God’s children live in faith and hope based on the certain promise, the divine pronouncement, that they shall inherit the earth.

Paul both warns and assures the Corinthians, saying, “So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:21–23). Because we belong to Christ, our place in the kingdom is as secure as His.

It is also certain “that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9). One day the Lord will take the earth from the hands of the wicked and give it to His righteous people, whom He will use “to execute vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute on them the judgment written” (Ps. 149:7–9).

Our inheritance of the earth is not entirely future, however. The promise of the future inheritance itself gives us hope and happiness now. And we are able to appreciate many things, even earthly things, in ways that only those who know and love the Creator can experience.

In the beautiful words of Wade Robinson,

Heav’n above is softer blue,

Earth around is sweeter green;

Something lives in ev’ry hue

Christless eyes have never seen!

Birds with gladder songs o’erflow,

Flow’rs with deeper beauties shine,

Since I know, as now I know,

I am His and He is mine.

Nearly a century ago George MacDonald wrote, “We cannot see the world as God means it in the future, save as our souls are characterized by meekness. In meekness we are its only inheritors. Meekness alone makes the spiritual retina pure to receive God’s things as they are, mingling with them neither imperfection nor impurity.”

The Necessity for Meekness

Meekness is necessary first of all because it is required for salvation. Only the meek will inherit the earth, because only the meek belong to the King who will rule the future kingdom of the earth. “For the Lord takes delight in His people,” says the psalmist; “he crowns the humble with salvation” (Ps. 149:4, niv ). When the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest in the kingdom, “He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, ‘Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ ” (Matt. 18:2–4).

Meekness is also necessary because it is commanded. “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth who have carried out His ordinances; seek righteousness, seek humility” (Zeph. 2:3). James commands believers, “Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Those who do not have a humble spirit are not able even to listen rightly to God’s Word, much less understand and receive it.

Meekness is necessary because we cannot witness effectively without it. Peter says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15). Pride will always stand between our testimony and those to whom we testify. They will see us instead of the Lord, no matter how orthodox our theology or how refined our technique.

Meekness is necessary because only meekness gives glory to God. Pride seeks its own glory, but meekness seeks God’s. Meekness is reflected in our attitude toward other children of God. Humility in relation to fellow Christians gives God glory. “Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Rom. 15:5–7).[2]


5 This beatitude and those in vv. 7–10 have no parallel in Luke. It would be wrong to suppose that Matthew’s beatitudes are for different groups of people or that we have the right to half the blessings if we determine to pursue four out of the eight. They are a unity and describe the norm for Messiah’s people.

The word “meek” (praus, GK 4558) is hard to define. It can signify absence of pretension (1 Pe 3:4, 14–15) but generally suggests gentleness (cf. 11:29; Jas 3:13) and the self-control it entails. The attempt to understand a “meek” person to be nonviolent and law-observant (Michel Talbot, Heureux les doux, car ils hériteront la terre: (Mt 5:4 [5]) [Paris: Gabalda, 2002]) is unconvincing in its methods and doctrinaire in its conclusions. The Greeks extolled humility in wise men and rulers, but such humility smacked of condescension. In general, the Greeks considered meekness a vice because they failed to distinguish it from servility. To be meek toward others implies freedom from malice and a vengeful spirit. Jesus best exemplifies it (11:29; 21:5). Lloyd-Jones (Sermon on the Mount,1:65–69) rightly applies meekness to our attitudes toward others. We may acknowledge our own bankruptcy (v. 3) and mourn (v. 4). But to respond with meekness when others tell us of our bankruptcy is far harder (cf. Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 43–44). Meekness, therefore, requires such a true view about ourselves as will express itself even in our attitude toward others.

And the meek—not the strong, aggressive, harsh, tyrannical—will inherit the earth. The verb “inherit” often relates to entrance into the promised land (e.g., Dt 4:1; 16:20; cf. Isa 57:13; 60:21). But the specific OT allusion here is Psalm 37:9, 11, 29, a psalm recognized as messianic in Jesus’ day (4QpPs 37). There is no need to interpret the land metaphorically, as having no reference to geography or space; nor is there need to restrict the meaning to “land of Israel” (see Notes). Entrance into the promised land ultimately became a pointer toward entrance into the new heaven and the new earth (“earth” is the same word as “land”; cf. Isa 66:22; Rev 21:1), the consummation of the messianic kingdom. While in Pauline terms, believers may now possess all things in principle (1 Co 3:21–23; 2 Co 6:10) since they belong to Christ, Matthew directs our attention yet further to the “renewal of all things” (19:28).[3]


5:5 A third blessing is pronounced on the meek: they shall inherit the earth. By nature these people might be volatile, temperamental, and gruff. But by purposefully taking Christ’s spirit on them, they become meek or gentle (compare Matthew 11:29). Meekness implies acceptance of one’s lowly position. The meek person is gentle and mild in his own cause, though he may be a lion in God’s cause or in defending others.

The meek do not now inherit the earth; rather they inherit abuse and dispossession. But they will literally inherit the earth when Christ, the King, reigns for a thousand years in peace and prosperity.[4]


5:5 The meek … shall inherit the earth refers again to those who have been humbled before God and will inherit, not only the blessedness of heaven, but shall ultimately share in the kingdom of God upon the earth. Earth can also be translated “land” (Ps. 37:3, 9, 11, 29; Prov. 2:21). Here, in the opening statements of the Sermon on the Mount, is the balance between the physical and spiritual promise of the kingdom. The kingdom of which Jesus preached is both “in you” and is yet “to come.” The Christian is the spiritual citizen of the kingdom of heaven now.[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 112). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 166–176). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 163–164). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1216). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1146). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

APRIL 9 – “I WILL NOT FORSAKE YOU!”

And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:20

 

Men without God suffer alone and die alone in times of war and in other circumstances of life. All alone!

But it can never be said that any true soldier of the cross of Jesus Christ, no man or woman as missionary or messenger of the Truth has ever gone out to a ministry alone!

There have been many Christian martyrs—but not one of them was on that mission field all alone. Jesus Christ keeps His promise of taking them by the hand and leading them triumphantly through to the world beyond.

We can sum it up by noting that Jesus Christ asks us only to surrender to His lordship and obey His commands. When the Spirit of God deals with our young people about their own missionary responsibility, Christ assures them of His presence and power as they prepare to go: “All power is given unto Me! I am no longer in the grave. I will protect you. I will support you. I will go ahead of you. I will give you effectiveness for your witness and ministry. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations—I will never leave you nor forsake you!”

 

Thank You, Lord, that You are very near to me and my loved ones at all times.[1]


Power

“and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28:20b)

As crucial as are the first four elements for effective fulfillment of the church’s mission, they would be useless without the last, namely, the power that the Lord Jesus Christ offers through His continuing presence with those who belong to Him. Neither the attitudes of availability, worship, and submission, nor faithful obedience to God’s Word would be possible apart from Christ’s own power working in and through us.

Idou (lo) is an interjection frequently used in the New Testament to call attention to something of special importance. Egō eimi (I am) is an emphatic form that might be rendered, “I Myself am,” calling special attention to the fact of Christ’s own presence. Jesus was saying, in effect, “Now pay special attention to what I am about to say, because it is the most important of all. I Myself, your divine, resurrected, living, eternal Lord, am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

A helpful way to keep one’s spiritual life and work in the right perspective and to continually rely on the Lord’s power rather than one’s own is to pray in ways such as these: “Lord, You care more about this matter I am facing than I do, so do what You know is best. Lord, You love this person more than I do and only You can reach into his heart and save him, so help me to witness only as You lead and empower. Lord, You are more concerned about the truth and integrity of Your holy Word than I am, so please energize my heart and mind to be true to the text I am teaching.”

Always literally means “all the days.” For the individual believer that means all the days of his life. But in its fullest meaning for the church at large it means even to the end of the age, that is, until the Lord returns bodily to judge the world and to rule His earthly kingdom. (See Matt. 13:37–50, where Christ uses the phrase “end of the age” three times to designate His second coming.)

Jesus will not visibly return to earth and display Himself before the whole world in His majestic glory and power until the end of the age. But until that time, throughout this present age, He will always be with those who belong to Him, leading them and empowering them to fulfill His Great Commission.

Some years ago, a missionary went to a primitive, pagan society. She became especially burdened for a young wife and eventually was used to win the woman to Christ. Almost as soon as she was saved the woman told the missionary with great sorrow, “I wish you could have come sooner, so my little boy could have been saved.”ll When the missionary asked why it was too late, the mother replied, “Because just a few weeks before you came to us, I offered him as a sacrifice to the gods of our tribe.”[2]


“I Will Be with You Always”

The final universal of Matthew 28:18–20 is “al[l]-ways” or, as the Greek text literally says, “all the days, even to the consummation of the age.” This is a great, empowering promise, and it is wonderfully true.

In the first chapter of Matthew, Jesus was introduced as “Immanuel”—which, we are told, means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Here, in the last verse, that very same promise is repeated. John Stott adds:

This was not the first time Christ had promised them his risen presence. Earlier in this Gospel … he had undertaken to be in their midst when only two or three disciples were gathered in his name. Now, as he repeats the promise of his presence, he attached it rather to their witness than to their worship. It is not only when we meet in his name, but when we go in his name, that he promises to be with us. The emphatic “I,” who pledges his presence, is the one who has universal authority and who sends forth his people.

So ends the first and longest of the Gospels: Jesus will be with us as we go. We have been given a very great task, but we do not need to attempt it in our own strength. We have the Lord’s power at work within us as well as his promise to be with us to the very end as we obey the Great Commission.[3]


But the gospel ends, not with command, but with the promise of Jesus’ comforting presence, which, if not made explicitly conditional on the disciples’ obedience to the Great Commission, is at least closely tied to it. “Surely” captures the force of idou here (see comments at 1:20). He who is introduced to us in the prologue as Immanuel, “God with us” (1:23; cf. 18:20), is still God with us, “to the very end of the age.” The English adverb “always” renders an expression found in the NT only here—namely, pasas tēs hēmeras, strictly “the whole of every day” (Moule, Idiom Book, 34). Not just the horizon is in view, but each day as we live it. This continues to the end of the age (for this expression, see comments at 13:39–40, 49; 24:3; cf. Heb 9:26)—the end of history as we know it, when the kingdom will be consummated. Perhaps there is a small hint of judgment. The church dare not drift, because it, too, rushes to the consummation. The period between the commission and the consummation is of indefinite length; but whatever its duration, it is the time of the church’s mission and of preliminary enjoyment of her Lord’s presence.[4]


Then the Savior added a promise of His presence with His disciples until the consummation of the age. They would not go forth alone or unaided. In all their service and travel, they would know the companionship of the Son of God.[5]


I am with you always. Jesus was named Immanuel (“God with us”) at His birth (1:23), and now He promises to be with His disciples to the end of the age, as the Lord had promised His presence to OT figures such as Jacob (Gen. 28:15) and Joshua (Josh. 1:5–9) and to Israel as a whole (Is. 43:5). He is with them specifically in the responsibility of teaching His will to the world.

to the end of the age. As the promise of Christ’s presence extends beyond the apostles’ life spans, so the disciple-making commission first spoken to the Eleven is now entrusted to the church, which is founded on the apostles’ confession (16:16–18).[6]


The final words of the Lord recorded by Matthew were a promise that He would be with them always until the very end of the Age. Though the Lord did not remain physically with the Eleven, His spiritual presence was with them until their tasks on earth were finished. These final words of the Lord were carried out by the apostles as they went everywhere, proclaiming the story of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, the King of the Jews.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 28:19–20). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2001). The Gospel of Matthew (pp. 651–652). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 669–670). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1313). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1726). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[7] Barbieri, L. A., Jr. (1985). Matthew. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 94). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

APRIL 9 – THE CHRISTIAN: CITIZEN OF HEAVEN LIVING ON EARTH

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

DANIEL 12:3

Let a man become enamored of Eternal Wisdom and set his heart to win her and he takes on himself a full-time, all-engaging pursuit! Thereafter his whole life will be filled with seekings and findings, self-repudiations, tough disciplines and daily dyings as he is being crucified unto the world and the world unto him.

The regenerated man has been inwardly separated from society as Israel was separated from Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Christian is a man of heaven temporarily living on earth. Though in spirit divided from the race of fallen men he must yet in the flesh live among them. In many things he is like them but in others he differs so radically from them that they cannot but see and resent it.

From the days of Cain and Abel the man of earth has punished the man of heaven for being different. The long history of persecution and martyrdom confirms this.

But, we must not get the impression that the Christian life is one of continuous conflict, one unbroken irritating struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

A thousand times no!

The heart that learns to die with Christ soon knows the blessed experience of rising with Him, and all the world’s persecutions cannot still the high note of holy joy that springs up in the soul that has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit![1]


3 The righteous are described as “wise” (Heb. maśkilîm; v. 3a). The parallel expression, “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), further describes “those who are wise” (cf. Baldwin, 205). The “wise” were introduced previously as those who “will instruct many” (11:33). These wise or righteous Jews are similar to the “righteous servant” of Isaiah who will “justify many” by his knowledge (Isa 53:11). Collins (Daniel, 393) outlines the two different views on how the “wise” make “many” righteous: either by their propitiatory death as martyrs (cf. Lacocque, 230) or by their teaching, meaning “instruction rather than martyrdom is the means of justification.” Clearly the latter understanding is more likely given the context of chs. 10–12, but more important is Baldwin’s observation, 205, that “there is only one source of righteousness—God himself” (cf. Da 9:7, 14). No doubt Daniel and those belonging to his group (or the teachers among them) are included among “those who are wise” (cf. Longman, 284).

As in the case with “the wise” (v. 3a) and “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), the phrases “like the brightness of the heavens” (v. 3a) and “like the stars” (v. 3b) should be understood as parallel synonymous expressions (cf. Miller, 319). Collins (Daniel, 393) connects the exaltation of the wise with the exaltation of the servant who acts wisely; “he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (Isa 52:13). Lucas, 295, finds an allusion to the motif of the wise shining like celestial bodies in “dew of light” mentioned in connection with those who will rise from the dead in Isaiah’s “little apocalypse” (Isa 26:19).

Both Lacocque, 244–45, and Collins (Daniel, 393–94) take the promise to mean that the wise will become angels in the next life, based on the influence of Hellenistic beliefs and later intertestamental apocalyptic literature (e.g., 1 En 104:2–6). Goldingay, 308, and Longman, 284, however, caution against pressing the language of an obvious metaphor too literally. Seow, 188–89, aptly calls attention to the reversal of destiny between the humiliation of those who attempt to ascend to the stars (cf. 8:10; 11:36–37) and the vindication of those who act wisely (v. 3).[2]


12:3 have insight. Those having true knowledge, by faith in God’s Word, not only leaders (as 11:33), but others (11:35; 12:10). To “shine” in glory is a privilege of all the saved (cf. the principle in 1Th 2:12; 1Pe 5:10). Any who influence others for righteousness shine like stars in varying capacities of light as their reward (as in 1Co 3:8). The faithfulness of the believer’s witness will determine one’s eternal capacity to reflect God’s glory.[3]


12:3 The brightness looks forward to the brightness in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22–27; 22:5).[4]


12:3 Amid the dark, agonizing days of tribulation predicted in Daniel, here is a promise of refreshing relief. Out of that great period of depression and in every period of history, those possessing the wisdom of God shine as the brightness of the firmament, especially those whose lives are given to the task of turning men to righteousness. These will glow like the stars for eternity.[5]


12:3 the ones having insight See Dan 11:33 and note. The Hebrew phrase referring to wise men”) sounds similar to the language in Isa 52:13. This makes the connection between the resurrected servant here and the resurrected Servant in Isa 53:10 more explicit.

the ones providing justice for the many In Dan 11:33, wise men are said to give understanding. Here, they turn many to righteousness. The two concepts are related and demonstrate how indispensable these teachers were—particularly in times of crisis. In addition to instructing, they modeled peace and hope for deliverance (see 11:33–35). The description of those who lead people to righteousness in this verse echoes language about the righteous servant from Isa 53:11—solidifying the relationship between these passages[6]


12:3 The wise not only understand salvation themselves (2 Tim. 3:15), they also turn many others to the way of righteousness.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 12:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1617). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Da 12:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 12:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1023). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

April 9 – Warning against External Righteousness

For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 5:20

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were entirely concerned with a mere external observance of God’s law, giving almost no consideration to motives or attitude. In Matthew 23:25, Jesus gives a descriptive view of such useless religion: “You are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Because of that terrible condition, our Lord labeled the scribes and Pharisees as “hypocrites.” They thought God would judge them only for what they did, not for what they thought.

But Jesus considers this sort of righteousness to be of the worst kind. Anybody who practices such “religion” is guilty of a large array of vile sins (Matt. 23:25–31). At another time Jesus warned the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Christ’s next teachings in this sermon would declare that God’s first concern is with people’s hearts. He condemns attitudes of anger, hatred, and lust, not merely their outward manifestations in murder and adultery (Matt. 5:22, 27–28). Similarly, anyone’s deeds of righteousness, such as prayer, giving, or fasting—if not done with a humble, loving attitude—are worthless (cf. 6:5–18). Hypocrisy and externalism cannot substitute for genuine righteousness.

ASK YOURSELF
Where has hypocrisy slipped into your life? Confess every example of it today—not the temptation itself, but rather every time you have gone on to mask pride and impurity with self-righteous appearances. Deal directly with these and repent, experiencing again the freedom of living whole, genuine lives of faith.[1]

Christ and the Law—Part 4: The Purpose of Scripture

(5:20)

25

For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. (5:20)

It is the false teaching of salvation by self-effort that Jesus confronts head-on in this verse and which all of Scripture, from beginning to end, contradicts. As Paul makes clear in the Book of Romans, even Abraham, the father of the Jewish people, was saved by his faith, not by his works (Rom. 4:3; cf. Gen. 15:6). In Galatians the apostle explains that “the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe” (Gal. 3:22). Outside of sin itself, the Bible opposes nothing more vehemently than the religion of human achievement.

Jesus told a “parable to certain ones who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). In that well-known story a Pharisee and a tax-gatherer went to the Temple to pray. The Pharisee prayed self-righteously, “ ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other,” Jesus said, “for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (vv. 10–14).

The least-esteemed and most-hated man in Jewish society was the tax-gatherer, a fellow Jew who had sold out to Rome for the purpose of collecting taxes from his brethren. He extorted all he could get from the people, keeping for himself everything he purloined above what Rome required. He had forsaken both national, social, family, and religious loyalty for the sake of money. The Pharisee, on the other hand, was the model Jew, highly religious, moral, and respectable. Yet Jesus said that, despite the tax-gatherer’s treachery and sin, he would be justified by God because of his penitent faith, whereas the Pharisee, despite his high morals and religiousness, would be condemned, because he trusted in his own righteousness and good works.

In the present passage Jesus teaches that the sort of righteousness exemplified by the Pharisees was not sufficient to gain entrance into His kingdom. To Jesus’ legalistic, works-oriented hearers, this was doubtlessly the most radical thing He had yet taught. If the meticulously religious and moral Pharisees could not get into heaven, who could?

After showing the preeminence (v. 17), permanence (v. 18), and pertinence (v. 19) of Scripture, Jesus now shows its purpose. From the context of those preceding three verses it is clear that He is still speaking of “the Law and the Prophets,” the Old Testament Scriptures. In saying that true righteousness exceeds the kind displayed by the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus said that, whatever they did with man-made tradition, they did not live up to the standards of Scripture.

The implied truth of Matthew 5:20 is this: The purpose of God’s law was to show that, to please God and to be worthy of citizenship in His kingdom, more righteousness is required than anyone can possibly have or accomplish in himself. The purpose of the law was not to show what to do in order to make oneself acceptable, much less to show how good one already is, but to show how utterly sinful and helpless all men are in themselves. (That is one of Paul’s themes in Romans and Galatians.) As the Lord pointed out to the Jews in the first beatitude, the initial step toward kingdom citizenship is poverty of spirit, recognizing one’s total wretchedness and inadequacy before God.

The Identity of the Scribes and Pharisees

Like Ezra (Ezra 7:12), the earliest gramraateōn (scribes) were found only among the priests and Levites. They recorded, studied, interpreted, and often taught Jewish law. Although there were scribes among the Sadducees, most were associated with the Pharisees.

Israel had two kinds of scribes, civil and ecclesiastical. The civil scribes functioned somewhat like notaries, and were involved in various governmental duties. Shimshai (Ezra 4:8) was such a scribe. The ecclesiastical scribes devoted their time to study of the Scriptures, and came to be its primary interpreters and articulators.

Yet, as Jesus repeatedly made plain, they failed to understand what they studied and taught. With all their exposure to God’s Word, being superficially immersed in it continually, they missed its profound spiritual intent.

The influential, rigid Pharisees were particularly confident in their system of righteousness. The Jews had a saying, “If only two people go to heaven, one will be a scribe and the other a Pharisee.” Those men were completely convinced that God was obligated to honor their devoted and demanding works. In comparing themselves with the standards they had established-and especially in comparing themselves with the average Jew, not to mention Gentile-they could not imagine God was not favorably impressed with their goodness.

Yet, like many serious and capable scholars throughout the history of the church, the Pharisees of Judaism were also blind to the meaning of the words they diligently studied and discussed.

The Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees

The standard of righteousness that the scribes and Pharisees taught and practiced differed from God’s righteousness in several important ways. It was external, partial, redefined, and self-centered.

External

First of all the scribes and Pharisees concerned themselves entirely with external observance of the law and tradition. They took little consideration of motives or attitudes. No matter how much they may have hated a person, if they did not kill him they were not guilty of breaking the commandment. No matter how much they may have lusted, they did not consider themselves guilty of adultery or fornication as long as they did not commit the physical act.

In Matthew 23 our Lord gives a graphic picture of the external character of that religion. “You clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (v. 25). The Lord prefaced those words with, “Woe to you, … hypocrites,” labeling those leaders with their sin. They saw nothing wrong with having evil thoughts as long as they did not carry out those thoughts externally. They did not think God would judge them for what they thought but only for what they did.

Yet that is precisely the sort of righteousness Jesus declared to be the worst sort. He condemned such externalism because those who practiced it were really thieves, self-indulgent, unclean, lawless, murderous, and enemies of God’s true spokesmen (Matt. 23:25–31). Jesus’ next teachings in the Sermon on the Mount show that God’s first concern is with the heart-with such things as anger, hatred, and lust-not just with their outward manifestations in murder or adultery (Matt. 5:22, 27–28). Hypocrisy cannot substitute for holiness.

God’s concern about religious ceremony is the same. Jesus is soon to teach that if, for example, our giving, our prayer, and our fasting are not done out of a humble, loving spirit, they count for nothing with Him (6:5–18). Ritual cannot substitute for righteousness.

The scribes and Pharisees were proud that they had “seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (Matt. 23:2), that is, that they were the custodians and teachers of the law God gave to Moses. “All that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things, and do not do them” (v. 3). By their ungodly system of works righteousness, Jesus told them, “You shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in” (v. 13). On another occasion He told the Pharisees, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).

Partial

The righteousness practiced by the scribes and Pharisees also fell short of God’s righteousness because it was partial, woefully incomplete. Again Matthew 23 gives an example: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weigh tier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness” (v. 23). Those religious leaders were meticulous in tithing the smallest plants and seeds from their gardens, though that was not specifically commanded in the law. Yet they had total disregard for showing justice and mercy to other people and for being faithful in their hearts to God. They were much concerned about making long, pretentious prayers in public, but had no compunction about taking a widow’s house away from her (v. 14).

To some extent this second evil was caused by the first. They disregarded such things as justice, mercy, and faithfulness because those things are essentially the reflections of a transformed heart. It is impossible to be merciful, just, and faithful without a divinely wrought change. No external formality can produce that.

Quoting God’s scathing words to their forefathers, Jesus told them, “In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:7–8). Yet they considered themselves to be Israel’s religious elite and the objects of God’s special affection.

Redefined

In many ways the scribes and Pharisees were like neoorthodox and liberal theologians of our own day. They took biblical terms and redefined them to suit their own human perspectives and philosophy. They reworked biblical teachings, commands, and standards to produce variations in keeping with their own desires and capabilities.

Even such commands as “Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44) they interpreted not as a call to pure attitude of heart but as a requirement to perform certain rituals. They knew they could not be holy in the same way God is holy-and had no desire to be-so they simply changed the meaning of holiness.

Self-Centered

Not only was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees external, partial, and redefined, but it was also completely self-centered. It was produced by self for the purposes of self-glory. Above all else, those leaders sought to be self-satisfied, and their system of religion was designed to enhance that self-satisfaction by providing ways to accomplish external, showy things about which they could boast and be proud. Their satisfaction came when they received approval and commendation from men.

In stark contrast, the godly person is broken about his sin and mourns over the wicked condition of his inner life, the unrighteousness he sees in his heart and mind. He has absolutely no confidence in what he is or in what he can do, but longs for the righteousness only God can give out of His mercy and grace.

But the person who is righteous in his own eyes sees no need for any other righteousness, no need for salvation, mercy, forgiveness, or grace. Just as their self-righteous forefathers had not wanted the grace God offered in the Old Testament, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day did not want the grace the Messiah now offered. They wanted to rule their own lives and determine their own destinies and were not ready to submit to a King who wanted to rule their inner as well as their outward lives. “Not knowing about God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3).

The Righteousness God Requires

The righteousness God requires of His kingdom citizens far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees. The term surpasses is used of a river overflowing its banks, emphasizing that which is far in excess of the normal. The Lord requires genuine righteousness, real holiness that far exceeds anything human and that exists only in the redeemed heart. The psalmist wrote, “The King’s daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is interwoven with gold” (Ps. 45:13). When the inside is beautiful, outward beauty is appropriate; but without inner beauty, outward adornment is pretense and sham.

God has always been concerned first of all with inner righteousness. When Samuel was ready to anoint Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, to be Saul’s successor, the Lord said, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

God not only requires inner righteousness but perfect righteousness.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). To be qualified for God’s kingdom we must be as holy as the King Himself. That standard is so infinitely high that even the most self-righteous person would not dare claim to possess it or be able to attain it.

The Righteousness God Gives

That impossibility leads the sincere person to wonder how such a holy heart is obtained, to ask the question Jesus’ disciples one day asked Him, “Then who can be saved?” (Matt. 19:25). And the only answer is the one Jesus gave on that occasion: “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (v. 26).

The One who demands perfect righteousness gives perfect righteousness. The One who tells us of the way into the kingdom is Himself that way. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6), Jesus said. The King not only sets the standard of perfect righteousness, but will Himself bring anyone up to that standard who is willing to enter the kingdom on the King’s terms.

“A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, … since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16). To be justified is to be made righteous, and to be made righteous by Christ is the only way to become righteous.

“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe” (Rom. 3:21–22). Faith had always been God’s way to righteousness, a truth that the scribes and Pharisees, the experts on the Old Testament, should have known above all other people. As Paul reminded his Jewish readers in Rome, “For what does the Scripture say? ‘And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness’ ” (Rom. 4:3). He quoted from the Book of Genesis (15:6), the earliest book of the Old Testament. The first patriarch, the first Jew, was saved by faith, not by works (Rom. 4:2) or the act of circumcision (v. 10). Abraham “received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them” (v. 11).

The uncircumcised includes those before as well as after Abraham. He was the father of the faithful, but he was not the first of the faithful. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous” and “by faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (Heb. 11:4–5). It was also only by faith that Noah found salvation (v. 7).

“For if by the transgression of the one [that is, Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17).

“As sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 21).

The righteousness God requires, God also gives. It cannot be deserved, earned, or accomplished, but only accepted. By offering Himself for sin, Christ “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:4–5). God gave the impossible standard and then Himself provided its fulfillment.

The writer of Romans had considerably more claim to man-made righteousness than most of the scribes and Pharisees to whom Jesus spoke. “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more,” wrote Paul; “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Phil. 3:4–6).

But when the apostle was confronted by Christ’s righteousness, he was also confronted by his own sinfulness. When he saw what God had done for him, he saw that what he had done for God was worthless. “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (vv. 7–9).

For those who trust in Him, Christ has become “to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). When God looks at imperfect, sinful believers, He sees His perfect, sinless Son. We have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet. 1:4) and possess in ourselves the very righteous life of the holy, eternal God. Admittedly, until our flesh is also redeemed (Rom. 8:23) that new righteous self is in a battle with sin. Even so, we are righteous in our standing before God in Christ, and have the new capacity to act righteously.

If even God’s own law alone cannot make a person righteous, how much less can man-made traditions do so? Those who insist on coming to God in their own way and in their own power will never reach Him; they shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. No church, no ritual, no works, no philosophy, no system can bring a person to God. Those who, through a church, through a cult, or simply through their own personal standards, try to work their way into God’s grace know nothing of what His grace is about.

It is tragic that many people today, like the scribes and Pharisees, will try any way to God but His way. They will pay any price, but will not accept the price He paid. They will do any work for Him, but they will not accept the finished work of His Son for them. They will accept any gift from God except the gift of His free salvation. Such people are religious but not regenerated, and they shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

“I am not setting God’s law aside,” Jesus said. “I will uphold God’s law, and I will strip it of all the barnacles of man-made tradition with which it has been encrusted. I will reestablish its preeminence, its permanence, and its pertinence. I will reaffirm the purpose God had for it from the beginning: to show that every person is a sinner and is incapable of fulfilling the law. The one who lowers the standards to a level he can fulfill will be judged by God’s law and excluded from God’s grace.”[2]


20 And that teaching, far from being more lenient, is nothing less than perfection (see comments at v. 48). The Pharisees and teachers of the law (see comments at 2:4; 3:7; Introduction, section 11.f) were among the most punctilious in the land. Jesus’ criticism is “not that they were not good, but that they were not good enough” (Hill). While their multiplicity of regulations could engender a “good” society, it domesticated the law and lost the radical demand for absolute holiness demanded by the Scriptures.

What Jesus demanded is the righteousness to which the law truly points, exemplified in the antitheses that follow (vv. 21–48). The law, for instance, forbids adultery. Someone might truthfully say that he has kept that law. But if that law points forward to such righteousness as prohibits adultery in one’s heart, the stakes are higher than can be met by even the most law-abiding Pharisee. Contrary to Helmut Flender (Die Botschaft Jesu, 45f.), v. 3 (poverty of spirit) and v. 20 (demand for radical righteousness) do not stand opposite each other in flat contradiction. Verse 20 does not establish how the righteousness is to be gained, developed, or empowered; it simply lays out the demand. Messiah will develop a people who will be called “oaks of righteousness … for the display of [Yahweh’s] splendor” (Isa 61:3). The verb “surpasses” suggests that the new righteousness outstrips the old both qualitatively and quantitatively (Bonnard; see comments at 25:31–46). Anything less does not enter the kingdom.[3]


5:20 To gain entrance into the kingdom, our righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (who were content with religious ceremonies which gave them an outward, ritual cleansing, but which never changed their hearts). Jesus uses hyperbole (exaggeration) to drive home the truth that external righteousness without internal reality will not gain entrance into the kingdom. The only righteousness that God will accept is the perfection that He imputes to those who accept His Son as Savior (2 Cor. 5:21). Of course, where there is true faith in Christ, there will also be the practical righteousness that Jesus describes in the remainder of the Sermon.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 108). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 274–282). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 179). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1219). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 9 – THE KINDNESS OF GOD

Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

—Psalm 116:5-6

Satan’s first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living….

The God of the Pharisee was not a God easy to live with, so his religion became grim and hard and loveless. It had to be so, for our notion of God must always determine the quality of our religion….

It is most important to our spiritual welfare that we hold in our minds always a right conception of God. If we think of Him as cold and exacting we shall find it impossible to love Him, and our lives will be ridden with servile fear. If, again, we hold Him to be kind and understanding our whole inner life will mirror that idea.

The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service one of unspeakable pleasure….

The fellowship of God is delightful beyond all telling. ROR011-013

Lord, I’ve already seen much of Your majesty. How phenomenal that You are also so gracious and kind, so winsome and delightful in fellowship! I thank You. Amen. [1]


5–6a The perfections of the Lord are those attributes revealed to Israel, who is in need of his grace (Ex 34:6–7; see Reflections, p. 271, The Perfections of Yahweh). The psalmist is fully aware that the Lord alone can help him, for he is “gracious,” “righteous,” full of “compassion,” so as to protect (šōmēr [participle], lit., “guarding”; cf. 121:3–8) the needy. He is “gracious” (ḥannûn, GK 2843) in his forgiveness and in sustaining his children (cf. 103:8; 111:4). He is “righteous” (ṣaddîq, GK 7404) in keeping the covenant and all the promises. He is “full of compassion” (meraḥēm; cf. Ex 34:6: raḥûm) in his tenderness and understanding of the limits of his children (cf. 103:13–14). This affirmation of the character of God is the reason for his thanksgiving, as the Lord is reliable and faithful. At the same time, the psalmist hereby encourages all the godly to call on the Lord in their various distresses.

6b The affirmation of the character of Yahweh (vv. 5–6a) leads the psalmist back to his story of how the Lord delivered him (vv. 3–4). The second colon of v. 6 restates and develops vv. 3–4: “when I was in great need, he saved me.” The psalmist called on the Lord, “Save me” (mālaṭ, v. 4); and the Lord was true to his promise: “he saved me” (yāšaʿ; cf. v. 13). In v. 8 the experience of deliverance is expressed by another verb: “you, O Lord, have delivered” (ḥalaṣ; cf. 6:4; 18:19; 34:7; 50:15; 81:7; 91:15; 119:153; et al.; see Reflections, p. 544, Yahweh Is My Redeemer). The variety of the synonyms reveal the fullness of deliverance. Though the Lord has promised to be with his own, the psalmist does not take his deliverance for granted. He is astounded by the marvel of full and free salvation.[2]


116:5, 6 A third element of worship is found in telling out the excellencies of the Lord. The risen Christ here lists some of the virtues of God which were displayed in His Resurrection. God is gracious, that is, kind and good. God is righteous; all He does is just and fair. God is merciful; He is of great compassion. The Lord preserves the simple, which in the case of the Lord Jesus on the cross meant that He preserved the sincere, the guileless or the helpless. God saves His people when they are in danger.[3]


116:5 Gracious … righteous … merciful. God reveals His kindness in His answer to the psalmist’s request. He does not stand at a distance when His people suffer.[4]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 846–847). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 731). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 841). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

April 9 – Overcoming Through Suffering

They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Revelation 12:11

 

Christians are aliens and strangers in the world, waging war against fleshly lusts and being slandered and persecuted. As a result, we must expect to suffer in the name of the One who endured all manner of suffering for us (1 Pet. 2:11–25). The central thrust of Peter’s message is to remind us of the necessity of suffering. When in the midst of suffering we sin in thought, word, or deed by retaliating, we lose our victory and damage our testimony.

According to today’s verse, you overcome the insults, persecutions, and accusations of Satan by the blood of the Lamb, our Savior. That’s the power of God. You’re an overcomer when you don’t lose your testimony by retaliating during times of persecution, and when you don’t compromise—even to the point of death. Are you willing to stand strong in the suffering?[1]


The heavenly worshipers also offer praise because of events on earth, where their brethren overcame Satan. Ejected from heaven, Satan and his hellish hosts will vent their full fury on God’s people on earth (cf. 12:6, 13–17). There too, however, they will suffer defeat. Again speaking of a future event in the past tense because of its certainty, the inspired apostle John sees the victory already won and notes that the believers alive on earth overcame Satan, though it is yet to happen. How they did so is most instructive. They did not defeat him by means of incantations, exorcisms, ritual formulas, or by “binding” or rebuking him. Satan, being far more powerful than any human, is impervious to such fleshly tricks and gimmicks. Nor was it through their own personal power that the Tribulation believers defeated Satan. To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).

The apostle John gave the only basis for victory over Satan when he wrote, “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). It is only through God’s power that any believer in any age can defeat Satan. Accordingly, the Tribulation believers overcame Satan first of all because of the blood of the Lamb. Like their martyred brethren already in heaven, they “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14). “You were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers,” wrote Peter, “but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18–19). These suffering believers knew the forgiveness that Paul wrote of in Romans 4:7–8: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” The truth that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) applied to them. No accusation against the suffering saints of the Great Tribulation will stand, just as no accusation against any believer in any age will stand, because the Lamb’s blood was shed for all their sins. The first and most important key to defeating Satan’s assaults is to “take the helmet of salvation” (Eph. 6:17; cf. 1 Thess. 5:8). The unshakable foundation of all spiritual victory is Christ’s purchase of redemption at Calvary.

A second way these Tribulation saints overcame Satan’s assaults was through the word of their testimony. Despite all the persecution (and even martyrdom) they suffered, they will remain faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ; their testimony will never waver.

The suffering Tribulation saints also were able to fend off Satan’s onslaught because they did not love their life even when faced with death. Their faithfulness extended all the way to death; they willingly paid the ultimate price for their loyalty to Christ. They knew that all martyrdom could do to them was usher them into the eternal bliss of Christ’s presence (Phil. 1:21, 23; cf. Matt. 10:38–39; Acts 20:24; Rom. 8:38–39). Because their faith was genuine, it not only justified and sanctified them, but also enabled them to persevere all the way to glorification. A sure mark of true believers is that they continue in the faith even to death (cf. 1 John 2:19). In the words of Jesus, “The one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).[2]


11 This stanza is both a statement and an appeal. It announces that the followers of the Lamb also become victors over the dragon because they participate in the “blood of the Lamb,” the weapon that defeated Satan, and because they have confirmed their loyalty to the Lamb by their witness, even to death. The blood of the martyrs, rather than signaling the triumph of Satan, shows instead that they have gained the victory over the dragon by their acceptance of Jesus’ cross and by their obedient suffering with him. This is one of John’s chief themes (1:9; 6:9; 14:12; 20:4).

Verses 12 and 17 lead to the conclusion that only a portion of the martyrs are in view (cf. 6:11). Thus this hymn of victory also becomes an appeal to the rest of the saints to do likewise and confirm their testimony to Christ, even if doing so means death. This seems to suggest that, in some mysterious sense, the sufferings of God’s people are linked to the sufferings of Jesus in his triumph over Satan and evil (Jn 12:31; Ro 16:20; Col 1:24). Since the martyrs have won the victory over the dragon because of the cross of Jesus (i.e., they can no longer be accused of damnable sin, since Jesus has paid sin’s penalty [1:5b]), they are now free even to give up their lives in loyalty to their Redeemer (Jn 12:25; Rev 15:2).[3]


12:11 The announcement continues. Persecuted Jewish believers overcame the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. Their victory was based on the death of Christ and their testimony to the value of that death. In faithfulness to Him, they sealed their testimony with their blood.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 114). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2000). Revelation 12–22 (pp. 21–23). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Johnson, A. F. (2006). Revelation. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Hebrews–Revelation (Revised Edition) (Vol. 13, p. 699). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2369). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.